Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba launched the smart speaker Tmall Genie X1 today, elbowing its way into the crowded digital voice assistant market where there’re already big name incumbents like Amazon, Apple, Google, and JD (their main e-commerce competitor).

Powered by a custom Smart Audio chip, the 126mm-tall virtual assistant speaker supports an 6-beam microphone array on the top and a subwoofer at the lower part of the device. The gadget needs less than 10 seconds to get connected to the network, outperforming the average of 30 seconds for most current smart home devices on the market.

Enabled by AliGenie, the voice assistant service developed by Alibaba’s homegrown team, Tmall Genie X1 allows users to control with verbal commands. Voice print technology ensures more accurate and secure commands, allowing users not only to purchase from Alibaba’s shopping sites but also to make payments through the device.

X1 supports connection with other smart home appliances on Alibaba’s smart home platform such as Tmall Box, air conditioner, and air purifiers.

屏幕快照 2017-07-05 下午5.11.52

Unsurprisingly, X1 enjoys advantages in price over similar products from US tech giants. With a price tag of only RMB 499 ($73), it’s far more affordable than Apple’s Home Pod ($349), Google Home ($129), and Amazon Echo ($230). JD’s DingDong is priced from RMB 499 – RMB 698, depending on the model.

The product is open for limited public testing starting today, while the official sales date is slated for August 8th.

Alibaba’s virtual assistant now only supports commands in Chinese, which means it’s facing Chinese customers for the time being and won’t form any tangible threats to US companies in their home markets. But it will sure further squeeze their growth in the Chinese market.

The Chinese tech giant is also facing serious competition from domestic competitors. Tencent has launched AI assistant Dingdang earlier this year. All out in AI, Baidu also laid out in the sector through the acquisition of Alexa-like service Raven Tech.

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via or Twitter.

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