Amazon launches Echo and Alexa in India and Japan

Amazon launches Echo and Alexa in India and Japan
PHOTO: AFP

Amazon is bringing its Echo speaker and Alexa smart personal assistant to India and Japan, the company said on Wednesday, marking its first foray into Asia with those products.

The US e-commerce giant said that Alexa and Echo are now available by invitation in India, and are coming to Japan later this year.

Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Plus are voice-controlled speakers that have Amazon's artificial intelligence (AI) personal assistant Alexa built in. They allow users to talk to the speaker to carry out tasks such playing music or setting reminders.

The devices will start shipping in India later this month, and Alexa and Echo will be available in Japan later this year.

It's unclear whether Alexa will understand Hindi and Japanese, or whether users will need to speak in English. CNBC has reached out to Amazon for clarification.

Amazon has been slowly expanding its Echo product range to other countries since it was first launched in the US in 2014. In 2016, it brought the Echo to Germany and the UK, its first markets in Europe.

It has subsequently launched different versions of the Echo, such as the Echo Show, which has a touchscreen. All of these are powered by Alexa.

Japan and India mark Amazon's first foray into Asia with the Alexa and Echo products.

Tom Taylor, senior vice president of Amazon Alexa, said the company is bringing its developer tools to allow people to create apps to India and Japan to create "localized Alexa experiences."

The smart speaker market is getting increasingly crowded and Amazon faces stiff competition from Google Home and Apple Homepod. Alphabet-owned Google is rumored to be developing a new version of its smart speaker product.

India has been a big focus for Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos. Last year, the company said it would invest $3 billion in the country. And Amazon's original content team has been focusing on localized TV shows as part of its Prime service in India.

"We're grateful that customers are responding - Amazon.in is the most visited and the fastest growing marketplace in India," Bezos said after the company's first quarter earnings in April.

"It's still day one for e-commerce in India, and I assure you that we'll keep investing in technology and infrastructure while working hard to invent on behalf of our customers and small and medium businesses in India."

This article was first published in CNBC.

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