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Alibaba Goes After Amazon Echo With $73 Voice-Activated Speaker

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Amazon’s Echo is about to have some more competition in the digital assistant arena: China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba will start selling a $73 voice-activated speaker.

The Tmall Genie X1 will be available for 499 yuan ($73) to the first 1,000 people who buy it during a one-month trial, the company announced on Wednesday. It may prove an attractive alternative to the more expensive Echo — which sells for about $180, or Apple’s recently launched $349 HomePod.

Among other things, users can tell the speaker to play music or read the news, add events to the calendar, or locate their phone.

The limited public beta starts today, with the official on-sale date set for Aug. 8. For the moment, the virtual assistant can only support commands in Chinese, which will keep it from threatening the likes of Amazon in other countries for the time being.

But it’s an increasingly crowded field in China, with competitors like Tencent, Baidu, and JD.com introducing their own speakers with digital assistants, points out CNBC.

There could be even more competition on the horizon, as The Wall Street Journal reports that Samsung is working on its own voice-activated speaker powered by its digital assistant Bixby.

At the moment, the voice-activated home speaker market is dominated by Amazon, which sold about 88% of the 4.2 million units sold in the fourth quarter, notes Bloomberg, while Google has about a 10% share of the action.

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