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article imageHuawei to take on Siri with its own digital voice assistant

By James Walker     Feb 16, 2017 in Technology
Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei is planning to release a rival to Apple's Siri by launching its own voice assistant. The company has assigned over one hundred engineers to the major development effort, described as "extensive" by insider sources.
Huawei's efforts to create its own digital assistant were revealed this week by Bloomberg. The company intends to build a unique voice-powered service with the stated intentions of rivalling existing Western solutions, people "familiar" with its plans told the news site.
Huawei is pushing the solution as an alternative to Google's built-in services in its native Chinese market. In China, smartphones commonly come without access to Google's Play Store and don't include Android's regular stock app line-up. Manufacturers have to pay Google license fees to feature its services so they're regularly excluded.
Having its own fully-featured digital assistant could allow Huawei to better differentiate its devices in the highly competitive Chinese smartphone market. Details of its capabilities have not been leaked but it's expected to include the same core functionality as the likes of Apple's Siri. Huawei will also add integration with its growing ecosystem of first-party Chinese apps and games.
According to Bloomberg, Huawei is aiming to create a direct competitor to Siri, Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant. It is firmly targeting the market leaders and has no interest in creating a less ambitious digital assistant app. It wants a fully-fledged in-house solution that could theoretically take on any of the major players.
Despite having Apple and Google in its sights, Huawei will not be launching the assistant outside of China. The company told news sites in January that it sees no point in trying to compete internationally when the industry leaders are already so established. With its brand name still relatively obscure outside of Asia, attempting to convince consumers to use its assistant over Google's isn't worth the challenge.
"We want to bring to the consumer the best services," Huawei Mobile CEO Richard Yu commented to TechCrunch. "In the China market we have our own – we have no intention to do this [internationally] in the short term."
It's for this reason that Huawei recently announced the U.S. version of its upcoming Mate 9 smartphone will come with Amazon's Alexa preloaded. It will be the first third-party device to feature Alexa out of the box. The company said it was looking to collaborate with Amazon and "develop rich voice activated consumer experiences for mobile users."
Huawei's strategy is unusually pragmatic. Whereas other companies will promote their products in every possible location, Huawei evidently understands its position in the international markets. Rather than blindly push its own services to every user, it'll happily work with rivals if it creates a better overall experience for customers.
By building its own assistant, Huawei can ensure it doesn't end up becoming dependent on third-party companies. It's an approach being taken by other Android device manufacturers, including Samsung, as brands are reluctant to rely on Google's own Assistant. After allowing the company to monopolise smartphone operating systems with Android, the industry looks set to deliver a far more varied selection of digital assistants.
More about Huawei, Smartphones, Mobile, digital assistants, siri
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