Alibaba’s Echo-Like Speaker ‚Tmall Genie‘ and the Future Chinese Voice Market

Alibaba's Echo-Like Speaker ‚Tmall Genie‘ and the Future Chinese Voice Market

An Echo competitor from Alibaba was rather inevitable. Now it’s here: The Tmall Genie X1.


Alibaba’s “Tmall Genie X1” will go for 499 yuan ($73) to the first 1,000 people during a one-month trial, coming in below Apple’s $349 HomePod and the roughly $180 Echo. Its biggest competitor, Tencent Holdings Ltd., is developing a voice-activated digital speaker that could hit the market within months, Tencent President Martin Lau said in a May interview. And on Wednesday, Baidu Inc. showed off its own “DuerOS” personal assistant.

It‘s interesting (disappointing even) that Alibaba chose a name close to its Tmall marketplace. It‘s like Amazon calling its speaker the ‚Amazon Marketplace Echo‘. „Tmall Genie“ is even the wakeword.

​​Reuters :

The Tmall Genie is currently programmed to use Mandarin as its language and will only be available in China. It is activated when a recognised user says “Tmall Genie” in Chinese.

In a streamed demonstration on Wednesday, engineers ordered the device to buy and deliver some Coca Cola, play music, add credit to a phone and activate a smart humidifier and TV.

Only general interest platforms will be successful, as we laid out a year ago in “Post-PC Online Retail: Why and How Amazon is Building the Alexa Voice Platform“, one of our most popular articles.

So, especially the competition between Alibaba and Tencent in this space is going to be interesting. Coming from WeChat, Tencent will certainly choose an approach that more closely resembles Amazon‘s Alexa approach. I suspect, Alibaba will soon make Genie forget the Tmall prefix.

​Bloomberg on the smart speaker market:

Shipments of intelligent home speakers surged nearly 600 percent to 4.2 million units in the fourth quarter, with Amazon taking about an 88 percent share and Google 10 percent, according to Strategy Analytics.

Voice will become an important part in repeat orders for fast moving consumer goods. If Tencent (and hence WeChat merchants) would own this market, Alibaba would be in deep trouble.

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