Exploring Asia with Baidu’s Smart Speakers

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In smart technology, Baidu, a titan in Chinese search engines, is making a formidable entrance with its inaugural smart speaker, the “Raven H”. This marks Baidu’s first direct foray into smart devices, leveraging an AI already active in over 100 varied gadgets. This edition of “Postcards from China” delves into how Baidu’s smart speaker initiative is poised to not just solidify its dominance in China but also to captivate the entire Asian market.

The Rising Star: Baidu’s Smart Speaker

Forget Alexa, Cortana, or Google Home; Baidu’s Raven H is set to become the new luminary in the smart speaker universe. Here’s why it’s likely to outshine its Western counterparts:

  • Amazon barely makes ripples in the Chinese market, making Alexa’s triumph there improbable.
  • Cortana’s presence owes much to widespread pirated Windows copies. But realistically, how many people efficiently utilize Cortana (or Siri) on their PCs? The answer is few, if any.
  • Google Home requires access to Google’s services, which, including Google Search and Gmail, are inaccessible in China.

The Engine Behind the Innovation: DuerOS

With Western tech giants facing hurdles in China, it’s a matter of time before local behemoths like Tencent, Alibaba, or Baidu launch a digital assistant spearheading China’s smart home revolution. Baidu has already laid groundwork with DuerOS, an AI platform adept at comprehending spoken Chinese. DuerOS’s goal is not just to respond to Chinese commands or queries but to evolve through its interactions. This AI is already at the core of over 100 diverse smart products available in China, thereby continuously honing Baidu’s AI prowess.

Introducing Baidu Raven H

In a strategic move, Baidu appointed Qi Lu, a former key player in Microsoft’s Cortana project, as its new COO. While Lu’s focus has been on Baidu’s autonomous vehicles, the first tangible product from Baidu’s AI lab is the Raven H smart speaker.

Baidu Raven Smart Speaker

Unveiled in November 2017, Raven H may not be the first in its category or the first to use Baidu’s AI. However, being Baidu’s direct product, it has generated considerable buzz. The device, resembling a stack of colorful coasters connected by an orange retro-style telephone cord, might seem eccentric but packs potential. While specifics are scarce beyond the initial announcement and its approximately $250 price tag, DuerOS’s capabilities suggest that Raven H is more than capable of rivaling Google Home or Alexa in the Chinese market.

Baidu’s Pan-Asian Aspirations

Lu posits that Chinese consumers differ fundamentally from their Western counterparts, allowing DuerOS-based products to better cater to Chinese needs than Apple, Amazon, or Google’s offerings. Baidu’s roadmap extends to Japan, India, and Thailand, markets more akin to China than to Western nations.

Could that be Baidu’s international market shares in the future?

Baidu’s expansion into Asian markets outside China signals not just its readiness for international growth but also a challenge to Google’s global dominance.

In conclusion, Baidu’s venture into smart speakers is anything but mundane. It represents a strategic move in technology adaptation and market expansion, setting the stage for an intriguing technological evolution in Asia.

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