Chinese smart speaker models prove a hit at home

The Tmall Genie. Picture: Alibaba

The Tmall Genie. Picture: Alibaba

Xiaomi offers a whole line of speakers compatible with its Xiao Ai intelligent assistant, which also uses voice commands to control apps on smartphones and smart devices.

While Amazon and Google dominate the smart speaker market in the US and Europe, in Asia, especially in China, local solutions from Alibaba, Xiaomi and Baidu are proving popular.

According to research from Canalys, smart speaker shipments totaled 5.8 million units in China in the third quarter of 2018, with three domestic giants on the podium: Alibaba (the local equivalent of Amazon), Xiaomi (an electronics manufacturer) and Baidu (often billed as China’s answer to Google).

The top-selling range of smart speakers in China is the Tmall Genie, developed by the Alibaba e-commerce conglomerate, which uses AliGenie, Alibaba’s own intelligent personal assistant, much like Amazon’s Alexa.

Launched in 2017, the Tmall Genie speaker allows users to search the web, play music or control various smart devices in the home (bulbs, air purifiers, TVs, robot vacuum cleaners, etc) using simple voice commands.

The speaker is available exclusively in China where it sells for CNY 499, or around R 1 000. According to Canalys’ report, 2.2 million Tmall Genie smart speakers shipped during the summer of 2018.

Xiaomi offers a whole line of speakers compatible with its Xiao Ai intelligent assistant, which also uses voice commands to control apps on the user’s smartphone as well as on smart devices in the home. Xiaomi, known for its price-crunching products, shipped 1.9 million units in the three months of Q3.

But the breakout hit of the summer is Baidu, which has seen quarter-on-quarter growth of 711%, shipping one million units between July and September 2018.

After acquiring Raven Technology and developing its own DuerOS assistant, the Chinese internet giant released its first generation of smart speakers in 2017. However, it’s the new Xiaodu model — which starts at just CNY 89, or approximately R180 — which helped seal the firm’s success.

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