Alibaba Plans Echo-Like Device for China

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.

No subscription? You’re missing out.
Join the high-powered community of tech and business leaders who rely on The Information’s original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 550 words of this article.
What’s included in a subscription?
Read The Information’s original, in-depth reporting and analysis
Receive as-they-happen articles via email
Talk with award-winning reporters in subscriber-only conference calls
Join the conversation on our subscriber-only Slack channel
Attend intimate, high-powered events with leaders in tech and business
Subscribe to The Information

In March, Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma spoke in front of thousands of engineers at the company’s Hangzhou headquarters. He said that Alibaba would establish new teams to focus on key technologies such as machine learning, internet of things and biometric identification. Mr. Ma likened Alibaba’s renewed technology push to building its own NASA, referring to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Ken Mandel commented on this article.
Read comments from top tech and industry leaders
Joe Lonsdale
Joe Lonsdale
Founding Partner, Eight
Chamath Palihapitiya
Chamath Palihapitiya
Founder & Managing Partner, SocialCapital
Tina Sharkey
Tina Sharkey
CEO, Brandless
Jonah Peretti
Jonah Peretti
CEO, Buzzfeed
Adam D'Angelo
Adam D'Angelo
CEO, Quora
Brit Morin
Brit Morin
Founder & CEO, Brit + CO
Dustin Moskovitz
Dustin Moskovitz
Co-Founder, Asana
Christina Miller
Christina Miller
President & General Manager, Turner
Max Levchin
Max Levchin
CEO, Affirm
Adam Mosseri
Adam Mosseri
Director of Product, Facebook
Alex Mather
Alex Mather
The Athletic
Martha Josephson
Martha Josephson
Partner, Egon Zehnder
James Murdoch
James Murdoch
Co-Chief Operating Officer, 21st Century Fox
Andrew Kortina
Andrew Kortina
Founder, Venmo
Ben Chestnut
Ben Chestnut
Co-Founder & CEO, Mailchimp
Ruchi Sanghvi
Ruchi Sanghvi
VP Operations, Dropbox
Login or Subscribe to follow the discussions happening here and real-time in our   Slack Community.
What makes Alibaba competitive—and potentially controversial—is the sheer amount and breadth of data it is capable of gathering.