Baidu DuerOS will bring a Mandarin voice assistant to hundreds of Chinese devices. EE Times interviewed Kun Jing, GM of Baidu’s DuerOS group, to learn more about the strategy.
Our goal is to have every chip maker pre-install our software. We want every device to have voice capabilities,” said Jing.
“Despite its name, DuerOS ‘is not a traditional operating system, but a cloud service client that supports a wide range of OSes such as FreeRTOS, ARM Mbed, Linux, and iOS,’ said Jing.
Much like Android provides Google Assistant native access to on-device controls, DuerOS is designed to do the same thing for Baidu’s Mandarin-based voice assistant. DuerOS was announced earlier this year at CES in January and was formally released as an open platform on July 4th. More than 100 companies have signed on including HTC, Harman and NVIDIA. TheStreet reported at the time:
DuerOS Open Platform is a conversation-based AI platform that provides development tools and skill kits for developers looking to quickly build intelligent devices that anyone can interact with primarily through voice and natural language conversation.
The Ecosystem Versus Device-Based Approach
Alibaba announced its new Echo-like, Tmall Genie X1, device on July 5th and Tencent’s JD.com launched the LingLong DingDong in November 2016. Both have taken a device-based approach to building the market. Baidu also has a device called “Little Fish” or Xiaoyu that is a voice-interactive robot launched in May. However, it appears more focused on the ecosystem-based approach. It acquired Kitt.ai earlier this month in order to provide a robust developer tool set for building conversational applications and has courted manufacturers with DuerOS.
HSBC reports that DuerOS will power a forthcoming Lenovo smart speaker and the company expects, “DuerOS to be a leading operating system in an IoT world.” Baidu may not need its own smart speaker if the company can drive wide DuerOS adoption. That would mean its Mandarin voice assistant would be available across multiple platforms and thousands of appliances.
Mirroring the Google Playbook
Barron’s reported on HSBC’s coverage of Baidu’s developer conference earlier this month paraphrasing comments by COO Qi Lu saying the company is “all-in” on AI. You may have noticed that Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced at its 2017 I/O developer conference, “An important shift from a mobile first world to an AI first world.” Baidu and Google represent the world’s two largest search companies. Both have deep experience and assets in AI and voice.
There are plenty of other parallels between the companies. Google has Android OS and new AI-based chipsets. Baidu launched DuerOS. Google acquired API.ai to provide a developer toolkit for conversational user interfaces (UI). Baidu acquired Kitt.ai for the same reason. Google has launched Google Home and Baidu has Xiaoyu. While Alibaba’s strategy may look a lot like Amazon’s and Tencent shows similarities to Apple, Baidu and Google are mirror images in many ways, both pre-AI and today. So, which business model will prove most successful in navigating the shift to AI and voice? Baidu and Google are placing the same bets, but focusing on different languages and countries–Baidu in China and Google everywhere else.