Yandex Launches Smart Speaker for Voice Assistant Alice

Today at the company’s annual Yet Another Conference (YAC), Russian search giant Yandex announced the Yandex.Station, a smart speaker home for its Russian-speaking intelligent assistant, Alice. The Yandex.Station is the company’s first attempt at hardware and will retail for $160. The speaker will begin shipping later this summer and has the same basic capabilities as other smart speakers currently on the market. One key difference though is that the Station has an HDMI output, so it can be connected to a larger screen allowing users to stream, search and control playback for various video services, including Yandex’s own, KinoPoisk.

Following Amazon’s Lead

Yandex also announced two other new features for Alice at YAC today, both which seem to mimic Amazon’s successful business model for Alexa. One is the Yandex.Dialogues, a developer skill platform the intelligent assistant. This will allow third-party developers to create new skills for Alice or to incorporate Alice as part of a customer-service chatbot. One interesting feature of Dialogues is that the “chat functionality will also be available on Yandex’s search results page to further expand their reach,” according to the company’s blog.

The company is also launching Yandex.Plus, a bundled subscription service which is similar to Amazon’s Prime. The service will cost 169 roubles or $2.75 a month. Yandex is providing a complimentary year of Plus to users who purchase the new Station. Plus includes a subscription to Yandex.Music, free delivery for orders over 500 roubles in over 30 locations across Russia, and other discount for various Yandex services.

A Native Russian Voice Assistant for Russian Consumers

Considering Yandex only introduced Alice in October of last year, the company is making impressive strides by launching a smart speaker, subscription service and skills kit for the voice assistant in just 8 short months. Right now, Alice is the only voice assistant and smart speaker product for the Russian market. It currently has 144 million Russian consumers all to itself. Like Google, Yandex is expanding its search capabilities to voice search. It is also following Amazon’s strategy of diversifying its product offerings and using its voice assistant as a marketing tool to do so.

The company still holds the majority market share when it comes to search, but in recent years Google has closed the gap, with Yandex holding 53% to Google’s 43%. Alice is another product that will allow Yandex to strengthen its search market share while promoting its other services, like music and video subscription services, its rideshare program and more. The new features for Alice and the Station can also help Yandex establish itself as the voice assistant market leader in Russia and hopefully keep other competitors at bay. For now.

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