Has the Amazon Echo met its match? Alibaba reveals cheap rival

6 Jul 2017

The Tmall Genie X1. Image: Screenshot from bot.tmall.com

Silicon Valley has a new challenger in the smart home assistant stakes with Alibaba revealing its own, at half the cost of an Amazon Echo.

Like the iPhone did 10 years ago, the Amazon Echo has sparked a new wave of devices geared towards being your own personal assistant in the home to control everything from turning off and on the lights to ordering your shopping online.

While the Echo has established a firm lead in this space, Google, Apple and others in Silicon Valley have been hot on its heels revealing their own devices that do very similar things.

Future Human

But now, China’s Alibaba is stepping into the fray with its own device that will aim to seriously undercut Silicon Valley, costing half as much as the Echo.

According to Bloomberg, the device is called the Tmall Genie X1 and at least for the first 1,000 people during a one-month trial, it will cost the equivalent of just over $70.

To put that into perspective, the Echo costs around $180 at the moment, while the Google Home and Apple HomePod cost $129 and $349, respectively.

Much like its Silicon Valley competitors, the Alibaba device will offer voice control for various services like the news and e-commerce and eventually devices around the home, but has no screen unlike the new Echo.

However, for now at least, Amazon et al have time on their hands with the device expected to launch next month, but only in China.

China has its own competition

Competition will be hotting up in China though as Alibaba will have to deal with its biggest national rivals launching their own devices in the near future, including Tencent and Baidu.

Despite the apparent demand from consumers, not all developers are so convinced of the attitudes taken by these companies and how they want to roll out smart home assistants.

Last May, Android’s co-founder Andy Rubin revealed its own iteration of the technology called Essential Home that would try to allow devices from different manufacturers talk to one another rather than creating gated networks.

“All of these [companies] have ecosystem envy and want to create their own ecosystem,” he said.

“But consumers don’t want just Samsung stuff in their house. They want diversity.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic