Baidu reveals a different smart speaker strategy with Raven H and DuerOS

Like just about every big tech company these days, Chinese web giant Baidu is getting in on the smart speaker game. But the company is doing things noticeably different from Amazon or Google, despite selling its new Raven H speaker device. Instead the key product is the assistant software itself, the DuerOS AI platform, and Baidu's goal is to have it used in hardware from other manufacturers.

The colorful Raven H speaker is the only in-house hardware from Baidu, and it's priced at roughly $250 for the Chinese market. Alternatively, customers can buy one of several third-party speakers running the same DuerOS software for only a quarter of that price. This is the opposite of Amazon and Google, which not only produce the best hardware for their Echo and Home platforms, but among the cheapest as well.

"Echo is actually competing with other smart speakers," DuerOS platform head Kun Jing told Fast Company. "If you get a discount on an Echo, a lot of other smart speakers are hard to sell. For us, we only build one first-party product, and this one is not cheap."

For now, Baidu is only focusing on its home market of China, with a gradual rollout of DuerOS to other parts of Asia in the future, starting with Japan. But the company is still looking for partners from outside the country to help its platform grow. For example, Baidu is already working on optimizing DuerOS for Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips, and a deal with WiFi module producer LinkPlay enables vendors to convert their Alexa products to the DuerOS platform.

Even the Raven H hardware embodies some of Baidu's different ideas when it comes to smart speaker assistants. For example, the top piece of the speaker is removable and serves as the storage for a user's personal info, preferences, and media, making it easy to transfer to second speaker in another room, or even take it to a friend's home to connect to their unit.

SOURCE Fast Company