On Wednesday, Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba (BABA) launched the "Tmall Genie X1" voice-activated speaker.
The device, which officially goes on sale on August 8 in China and responds to Mandarin, will sell for just $73 to the first 1,000 buyers during a one-month trial. That is far cheaper than the Amazon Echo, which is powered by its Alexa voice-activated personal assistant and sells for around $180, and Apple’s recently announced HomePod, which goes for $349. (See more: Alibaba Shares Could Be Worth $210)
Similar to the other voice-activated speakers on the market, the new offering from Alibaba can stream content like music or newscasts, add events and appointments to a calendar, and shop for goods via digital payment service Alipay, reported Quartz. According to Quartz, the company is opening the software behind the device up to third-party developers.
The first iteration won’t come with a display and will be sold only in China. The launch of the speaker comes amid growing interest on the part of consumers thanks to Amazon’s success with the Echo family of devices. According to a Bloomberg report, which cited Strategy Analytics, shipments of voice activated speakers increased close to 600% in the fourth quarter to 4.2 million units. Spending on smart home hardware, services and installations is projected to hit $155 billion in 2022 from close to $90 billion in 2017. The research firm predicts devices will account for around half of sales by then. (See more: Voice Assistants Move Toward Corporate Roles)
When it comes to launching devices powered by voice, Alibaba is a bit late to the party both internationally and at home. Baidu, the Chinese search giant, already has a product on the market, while Apple recently launched its device, and Amazon and Google have had products out for awhile. Bloomberg noted the Chinese ecommerce giant’s rival Tencent is gearing up to launch a voice powered speaker in the coming months while Quartz pointed out JD.com, another competitor, has had voice powered speakers since 2015. JD.com’s most expensive DingDong speaker device goes for $118, noted Quartz.