Baidu: well my voice assistant sold 200 million!
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Baidu: well my voice assistant sold 200 million!

At the beginning of this week, we reported on Amazon’s surprise announcement that it had shifted 100 million devices with its virtual personal assistant Alexa. Now, Chinese internet giant Baidu has joined the party, announcing that its own voice assistant has been shipped out with over 200 million devices. Impressive? Not as much as Google – which just announced that it expects its own assistant to be on 1 billion devices by the end of the month!

As worries weigh on Chinese stocks, Baidu’s share price has declined by 2% in 2019 so far

graph 10 baidu

Source: Yahoo Finance

Baidu’s focus on voice interaction tech is part of a strategy that will see it become less reliant on its famous search business 9often described as the ‘Chinese Google’) and become a global leader in artificial intelligence (AI). Hence, it’s been pushing its voice assistant (DuerOS) aggressively, and has managed to more-than double its base since last June (when it was on about 90 million devices). But, the question remains: how impressive are all these numbers, and how do they stack up?

While Amazon has shipped – by a very long way – the least voice-enabled devices, there is still a good case to call it the virtual personal assistant market leader. That’s because almost all of the devices that come with Alexa are bought – at least in part – by consumers who want to use Alexa.

That’s not true of Baidu’s DuerOS – the company also announced how many devices regularly use the assistant. A far less impressive 35 million. A similar point could be made about Google: while its assistant may be present on a billion devices, including numerous smartphones and more – how many people are actually buying those devices to interact with it?

Right now, Amazon’s advantage over competitors is pretty clear: it has the best entertainment and retail ecosystem for a voice assistant to integrate with, and it has far more uses than its peers (Amazon’s Alexa, for instance, has 56,000 skills. Baidu’s DuerOS has 800). However, Baidu is not in direct competition with Amazon – and the fact remains, its expansion in virtual personal assistants is leading the Chinese market. That’s a big potential win for Baidu, and a big step forward in its goal of becoming an AI-first company.

Disclosure

Dominion holds Baidu, Amazon, and Alphabet (the parent company of Google) in its Global Trends Ecommerce Fund.


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