The Tmall Genie is the latest smart speaker to hit the market, unveiled by technology giant Alibaba. The Tmall Genie assists in playing music, running third-party apps and buying goods from Alibaba’s online stores. At this time, the Tmall Genie only understands Mandarin and lacks a display. A product demonstration has recently taken place in Beijing where the Tmall Genie was used to order Coco-Cola and purchase phone credit.
The Tmall Genie’s name comes from Alibaba’s e-commerce platform, Tmall. The platform allows retailers from anywhere in the world to operate a virtual storefront on the site, similar to Amazon. It is China’s third most visited shopping site. Like Amazon, Tmall locks in consumers to their retail network using the Genie smart speaker so purchases are made from there rather than from competitors.
Using a smart speaker to make purchases is still a fairly new technology and some have raised questions about how personal data is leveraged. It’s also been questioned how personal information will be shared. Alibaba responded to these privacy concerns by introducing voiceprint-technology which will restrict purchases to recognised voices. They also have a build in payment system called Alipay which is similar to Paypal.
China’s largest technology company by market capitalisation is Tencent and they have announced they are developing a similar product. In the West, the Amazon Echo and Google Home have market monopoly for smart speakers while Apple and Microsoft are currently planning similar product releases. Samsung is also preparing a speaker powered by Bixby, their virtual assistant.
The product is being sold for 499 yuan which is equivalent to around £57 or $73, making it one of the cheapest smart speakers available.
If the Tmall Genie spoke your language, would you consider purchasing this or would privacy concerns discourage you?