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Alibaba to serve up Kentucky Fried smart speaker, with a $1.4bn side of e-commerce integration

Hey Tmall Genie, spike my cholesterol, then coalesce my web empire with voice commands

Alibaba will invest $1.4bn into its smart speaker line, including a model capable of ordering KFC for breakfast.

Alibaba's smart speaker is called the "Tmall Genie"and has been China's top-selling smart speaker since its launch in 2017, according to the latest data from IDC. The device integrates with more than 1,100 partner brands, ranging from smart fridges, robot vacuum cleaners and tech-enabled sportswear.

A new version of the speaker, announced yesterday, will be branded with KFC's logo and allow users to order and pay for KFC breakfast items from over 5,000 locations across China. Alibaba had not responded to The Register's inquiries about ordering lunch and dinner too.

The new investment aims to more fully integrate Tmall Genie's proprietary AI and IoT technologies with Alibaba's wider ecosystem of product and services, ranging from entertainment, education, healthcare, and online shopping. Alibaba also plans to collaborate with partners to develop more content and services for the speaker.

As a first step, from July 2020, users will be able to use the speaker to make purchases on Alipay's mini apps, where many Chinese brands have digital storefronts.Users with Tmall models with screens will also be able to use the smart speaker to watch programmes from Taobao Live, the company's live- streaming channel.

The KFC-branded version of the speaker is not the first time that Alibaba has collaborated with big brand names. In September 2019, the Chinese company released a Starbucks-branded version of the speaker that enabled users to order food and drinks from the Seattle-based coffee chain. The smart speaker would provide users with personalised recommendations based on their previous orders and Starbucks's seasonal menu. ®

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