Xiaodu Smart Speaker Baidu DuerOS

Baidu DuerOS Assistant Reaches 100 Million Devices

  • Baidu says device availability of its DuerOS AI assistant has doubled to 100 million in less than 6 months.
  • DuerOS is now supported by 16,000 skills developers, signed up 200 partners and is included in 110 smart devices.
  • Third-party devices are driving DuerOS adoption and the company may have figured out smart speakers with the recent launch of Baidu’s Xiaodu smart speaker which sold out all 10,000 units in 90 seconds in June.

The voice assistant battle in China between Baidu and Alibaba is every bit as fierce as between Amazon and Google in the rest of the world. Like Amazon, Alibaba sought an early lead in smart speaker sales and used price and integration with shopping as key differentiators. The results were rapid growth to two million smart speakers sold in about nine months and a commitment by Marriott to install the devices in 100,000 hotel rooms. Baidu has taken a course more similar to Google in the voice assistant space. It is focused on embedding the DuerOS AI assistant in as many third party devices as possible, while also rolling out its own product line.

Many Devices and Many Partners

In terms of its own DuerOS AI assistant enabled products, Baidu has several smart speakers and smart displays. The innovative Raven H smart speaker recently halted production, but the company rolled out a new device in June called Xiaodu. Baidu say that smart speaker sold out all 10,000 units in 90 seconds. There are also smart displays such VS1 which was announced at CES, the Xiaoyu launched in 2017 and a new device coming to InterContinental Hotel suites. But, it doesn’t look like Baidu’s own DuerOS devices are driving its availability. DuerOS smart speakers may have sold hundreds of thousands of units to date. It is the integration with third-party devices such as appliances and smartphones have driven the AI assistant’s availability to one hundred millions unit. The announcement states:

DuerOS offers first-party devices as well as developer tool kits and turnkey solutions to enable OEMs to easily integrate AI capabilities into their devices, such as TV set-top boxes, children’s storytelling machines, smart speakers and home appliances.

The company said that DuerOS is now supported by 16,000 skills developers, signed up 200 partners and is included in 110 smart devices. Huawei, Vivo and OPPO smartphone makers have “integrated DuerOS conversational AI capabilities into several of their flagship phone models,” and Baidu says it is working with leading car brands ranging from BMW and Daimler AG to Ford, Hyundai, and Kia. This looks like a “DuerOS everywhere” strategy.

Information Access as Core Differentiation

Baidu is differentiating DuerOS first around information access. As the leading search engine in China, this leverages Baidu’s strongest asset. The search capabilities provide access to a wide range of information and entertainment that is already indexed. In addition, many device-makers integrate today with Baidu for search. Adding DuerOS as an AI assistant is an evolution of those integrations and does not require adopting something completely new. It is an easy way for device makers to ride the voice assistant adoption wave in China. Kun Jing, General Manager of Baidu’s Smart Living Group commented:

“We are seeing voice input gaining huge adoption in China. By leveraging Baidu’s AI technology, which has the largest indexing of Chinese webpages and a better multi-modal semantic understanding of the Chinese language, DuerOS is uniquely positioned for the shift to conversational AI in China.”

Global AI Battlegrounds

There are two sets of battles raging around the future of voice AI technologies. The one people are most familiar with is Amazon versus Google, but those clashes are for market share everywhere except for China. Apple, Microsoft and others are jockeying for position, but they are far behind today. Similarly, inside of China, Alibaba and Baidu represent the two voice AI leaders with other competitors far behind. However, with 100 million devices supporting DuerOS today, it may be that Baidu is quickly becoming the sole leader.

In terms of global reach, 100 million devices trails Google, Apple and Microsoft which each claim their voice assistant can be accessed on 500 million devices. It remains to be seen whether access to a voice assistant across multiple device surfaces will convert to regular use, but it does offer a significant opportunity for these global tech companies to drive adoption, habit formation and consumer loyalty. You can read the full news release here.

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