Chinese giant Alibaba is looking to enter the voice-activated personal assistant space as early as next week, following in the steps of rivals Amazon and Google.
The move into the smart speaker market adds another string to Alibaba’s expanding digital bow, with the Chinese ecommerce group having established itself successfully in markets such as cloud and payments.
Initial reports from The Information suggest that Alibaba’s first personal assistant devices could be launched next week, with the market in China already a competitive one when it comes to smart devices.
Baidu, which operates China’s most popular search engine, launched an AI digital assistant in January of this year. The Xiaoyu Zaijia device, which translates to ‘little fish’, lets users ask questions, find local services and control home devices.
Rival ecommerce firm JD.com also has a device in the Chinese market, having launched its DingDong two years ago. Huawei, meanwhile, is said to be looking to Apple’s Siri for inspiration for its own digital assistant.
The competitive virtual assistant market in China mirrors that of the US, home to the most well-known smart speakers and devices. Google recently went head-to-head with Amazon with the introduction of its Home speaker, with the launch looking to diminish Amazon’s dominance in the market.
Just this week, the market got that little bit more crowded with the launch of Invoke, a device developed by Microsoft and Samsung which is powered by the Cortana digital assistant.
For Alibaba, the introduction of a voice-activated digital assistant shows that the company is betting big on IoT, with Alibaba boss Jack Ma confirming this at last month’s investor presentation:
“We think the internet of things is the future,” said Ma, China’s richest man.