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It was only a matter of time. Alibaba has introduced a device that is about $100 to $275 cheaper than those made by Amazon, Google, and Apple. The new device will sell for about $75, while Amazon’s Echo list price is $180, Google Home goes for $129, and the Apple HomePod will cost a whopping $349. Let the voice assistant price wars begin!

It’s too early to compare its performance and functionality to those of its older rivals — let alone language availability, but Alibaba’s Tmall Genie, as it’s called, has two advantages out of the gate: one obvious and one not-so-obvious.

First, the obvious one: its aforementioned low price.  As VentureBeat has previously reported, price is the most important factor consumers consider when shopping for a voice assistant or smart speaker. Might Alibaba go head-to-head with Amazon one day?

Second, less obviously: Even as it tries to outdo the likes of Amazon, Alibaba will benefit from competition and cooperation among local rivals like Baidu, Huawei, and Tencent. For instance, Baidu released its Apollo project, which includes DuerOS software for self-driving cars. Tencent, meanwhile, has developed Xiaowei, a voice assistant device of its own, and recently opened an AI lab in Seattle. All this points to China’s ambition to become an AI powerhouse, which will swell the tide and lift Alibaba’s AI boat.


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P.S. Please enjoy this video from the Aspen Ideas Festival, “What Are Machines Really Learning to Do?

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