Alibaba, China’s eCommerce company, is reportedly gearing up to create a voice-controlled speaker similar to the virtual assistant Amazon Echo that understands the Chinese language.
According to a news report in CNBC, citing The Information, Alibaba could launch the device as soon as next week. The virtual assistant is expected to understand Chinese commands and enable users to purchase products from the company’s online sites. If the report proves to be true, Amazon, Apple, Google and Alibaba will all have voice-controlled speakers in the marketplace, noted the report.
The potential move on the part of Alibaba comes at time when China’s eCommerce giant is going into new markets and expanding into different areas of technology. Earlier this month, it pushed further into India via an acquisition of a majority stake in TicketNew, the film ticket website. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the purchase was made via Alibaba Pictures Group, the entertainment arm of the eCommerce company. Previous media reports pegged the price tag at $35 million for a controlling stake of 70 to 75 percent.
It isn’t the first acquisition Alibaba engaged in the movie ticket online market in recent months. In March, it acquired Damai, the online ticket service. Damai is a key component in the push to offer online-to-offline commerce services in which consumers are encouraged to make purchases at physical locations, such as movie theaters.
Alibaba is likely to take lessons it learned with Damai in China and apply them to India via TicketNew. TicketNew Founder and CEO Ramkumar Nammalvar said in the report that Alibaba also plans to invest INR1.2 billion ($18.6 million) in the company it is acquiring.
Meanwhile, earlier this week it spent $1 billion to increase its stake in Lazada to 83 percent to get a better foothold in the eCommerce market in Southeast Asia.