Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., a Chinese e-commerce company, would launch a product to rival Amazon’s Echo, an online enabled speaker that reacts to voice commands, according to a report. A report claims that the Chinese company may just unveil the product by next week.
Alibaba’s new connected voice speaker would be available in China and can speak using only Mandarin. It is being developed by Alibaba’s artificial intelligence research teams in China. It will be targeted at local consumers who already use Alibaba’s online services, and is unlikely to be launched in the U.S.
Consumers are likely to be able to use the product to make purchases from Alibaba’s online platforms using a voice-activated assistant, in much the similar way as Amazon Echo users can issue such commands to its Alexa and virtual PA.
Amazon Echo, launched in 2014, is a speaker which one can leave on all day and give voice commands to it, similar to Siri on an Apple Inc., while Apple and Google have unveiled products similar to Echo with the HomePod and Google Home.
Though Alibaba is often dubbed as “The Amazon of China,” Alibaba founder Jack Ma has said that Amazon is closer to a retailer while Alibaba is more like a small business ecosystem and told the American companies to be “careful, not afraid”. Still, the two companies compete in similar areas outside of shopping, including movies, cloud, groceries and artificial intelligence.
Alibaba shares traded down over 3% on Thursday afternoon.
On Wednesday, it announced that it would be increasing its stake in Singapore-based online retailer Lazada Group from 51% to 83%. Meanwhile, a new research note from JPMorgan forecast that Alibaba’s shares had a further 32% upside on top of the 60% they have already returned since New Year. JPMorgan pointed to the increasing rate, which Alibaba is monetizing its huge trove of consumer data.
Apple HomePod, Google Home, and Amazon Echo are basically internet-connected speakers which directly stream music from services like Apple Music, Google Play, and Amazon Prime Music. These speakers come with built-in digital assistants, which are activated by voice commands. Earlier, digital assistants were only part of smartphones and with smart homes being the drive for every major tech firm, these
voice-based assistants are now coming
home with smart speakers which talk and respond to requests made.
Alibaba’s smart speaker will also face domestic competition from similar devices already launched by JD and Baidu. Tencent recently revealed its own virtual assistant Xiaowei.
Meanwhile, by 7:59 PM GMT-4, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., traded 2.18%, or 3.14, to $140.81. It opened in $143.16, with a session high of $143.56 and a session low of $137.52. Its market capitalization was 366.80 billion, with a P/E ratio of 56.37.
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