Tech Transformers

Huawei is exploring bringing its own voice assistant to its Wi-Fi routers to rival Google, Amazon


Huawei is considering bringing its own voice assistant to its home Wi-Fi routers as a way to compete with the likes of the Amazon Echo speaker in the smart home space, a top executive from the company told CNBC on Wednesday.

The Chinese technology giant has been working on its own voice assistant in China, Bloomberg reported in February, and it appears that Wan Biao, the chief operating officer for Huawei's consumer business division, confirmed its existence and plans to integrate it into its products.

When asked if Huawei would bring out a smart speaker such as the Amazon Echo, Wan said that the company already has a Wi-Fi router which it could boost with new artificial intelligence capabilities.

"Actually Huawei has already been exploiting in this field, for example, Huawei's Wi-Fi routers are very good products for homes. And we are considering to enrich the functions of these router products, to include such as voice searching and data storing functions," Wan told CNBC in a TV interview at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Asia.

It appears that this would be a product for the Chinese market. Wan said that with its smartphones that run Google's Android operating system abroad, it would continue to work together.

"We will focus on cooperating with Google," Wan said.

In Western markets, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Apple's Siri, and Microsoft's Cortana are the dominant voice assistants. Amazon has continued to push Alexa across numerous products, while Google has rolled out Assistant across Android devices and its own Google Home device. Even Apple came out with its own smart speaker called HomePod this week.

But these voice assistants mainly work with English. Amazon's Alexa does understand German too. English language voice search is a competitive market. But by focusing on China, Huawei could tap a market that the big U.S. technology giants can't get to as their assistants can't understand Chinese.

Of course, there is competition in the voice market in China from the likes of Mobvoi, which is backed by Google, and Baidu.

Still, rolling out the assistant across its devices could help the company build an ecosystem in the consumer device market. It recently launched a new laptop called the MateBook X, marking its first foray into personal computing. It is also now the third-largest smartphone maker in the world by market share, after entering the mobile market not too long ago.