Alibaba, China’s biggest e-commerce and cloud-computing company, plans to unveil a Chinese voice-controlled speaker similar to Amazon’s Echo as early as next week, people familiar with the matter said. Alibaba’s new product could create more competition for Apple in China if the U.S. company releases its HomePod there.
While details aren’t known, the device could allow Chinese consumers to buy goods from Alibaba’s shopping sites using a voice-activated virtual assistant, just as Americans can use the Alexa virtual assistant on the Echo to order things on Amazon. The Alibaba virtual assistant was developed by the company’s artificial-intelligence research teams in China, the people said. The product, which understands voice commands in Chinese, is targeted solely at domestic consumers who are already familiar with Alibaba’s online services. That means it won’t likely be released in the U.S.