Google Vs. Amazon in Indian Smart-Speaker Showdown

The smart-home war between Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOGL) Google and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) has a new battleground in the world's second most populous country. 

Mountain View, California-based search giant Google has announced the debut of its smart speaker products Google Home and Google Home Mini in India, following e-commerce and cloud computing behemoth Amazon into the high-stakes region. The devices, priced at 9,999 rupees ($153.88) and 4,499 rupees, respectively, come equipped with Google Assistant, the company's artificial intelligence (AI)-driven digital voice assistant.  (See also: Why Amazon Is Spending $1B on a Doorbell Company.)

Google suggests that its smart home products will understand Indian accents and will respond in "uniquely Indian contexts," as stated in a company blog post on Tuesday. An update scheduled for later in 2018 will allow Google Assistant to respond in India's national language, Hindi. At launch in India, the speakers will support Google Play Music, Netflix Inc. (NFLX), Indian online music services Saavn and Gaana, as well as Google's video platform, YouTube.

Tech Titans Push to Secure Foothold in World's Largest Democracy

In 2017, Seattle-based retailer Amazon launched the Amazon Echo in the Asian subcontinent. The device, powered by Amazon's voice assistant Alexa, understands English spoken in an Indian accent as well as some sentences that include words in languages such as Hindi or Punjabi. The Amazon Echo goes for 9,999 rupees in India. To draw consumers away from the similarly priced Amazon Echo, Google will offer buyers a free JioFi router and special music streaming subscription offers when they purchase online via Flipkart. 

The tech titans' push for a slice of the Indian smart-home market reflects the larger importance of securing a foothold in the world's biggest democracy. Jeff Bezos' Amazon has funneled billions into the country, and is reportedly weighing making a bid against Walmart Inc. (WMT) for local e-commerce leader Flipkart.  

Apple Inc. (AAPL), second to Google's Android mobile operating system in the country, started manufacturing in India last year. In India, where consumers gravitate to more budget-friendly smartphones, Google has faced regulatory roadblocks including a 1.36 billion rupee fine for "search bias" and abuse of its dominance position. (See also: Amazon V. Google: Smart Home War Escalates.)