Alibaba launches a Chinese-language smart home speaker rival to Amazon's Echo

  • Alibaba's version the Amazon Echo is called the Tianmao JinglingX1 (Tmall Genie X1).
  • The X1 is only available in China and speaks only Mandarin.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has jumped into the smart home speaker space.

The company on Wednesday launched a device called the Tianmao JinglingX1 (Tmall Genie X1). It's Alibaba's version of Amazon's popular Echo device. The X1 is available only in China and speaks only Mandarin.

It was only a matter of time, as voice-activated personal assistants have taken off over the last year. Amazon introduced its Echo in November 2014, but over the last six months, Alphabet, Microsoft and Apple have jumped in with their own versions. EMarketer expects that nearly 36 million Americans will use a smart speaker at least once a month this year — a jump of almost 130 percent over last year.

The biggest tech names in China have already been getting in on the action, too. Search giant Baidu has the Xiaoyu Zaijia and Alibaba's rival JD.com has the LingLong DingDong.

So while Alibaba may not be first to the Chinese market, the company believes that its artificial intelligence, troves of data and huge e-commerce platform will make it a leader. At a press conference in Beijing, an Alibaba executive said the X1 already has "hundreds of skills" in music, entertainment, online shopping, fitness and education.

The Tmall Genie X1 will cost the equivalent of $73 for the first 1,000 people purchasing one during a one month trial when it goes on sale Aug. 8.

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