Amazon unveiled their new Echo speaker to compete for consumers’ money and mindshare.
SAN FRANCISCO — Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa is heading to India and it will get to Japan later in the year. But while it might pick up a slight accent on arrival, so far it’s sticking to English to get around.
Amazon announced Wednesday that it’s opening up its Alexa Skills Kit (cleverly called ASK) for customers in India. It will also begin selling three Alexa-enabled devices in India: the Amazon Echo, Echo Plus and Echo Dot.
Customers in that nation of 1.3 billion people can request an invitation to purchase an Echo device beginning Wednesday, the company said in a release.
Though only about 11% of them will be able to actually talk to Alexa.
That’s because Alexa in India will only speak English, not Hindi, the nation’s other official language. Or any of the country’s dozens of other languages, many of which are official at the state level there.
Which isn’t to say having Alexa work in India won’t be a linguistic hurdle. English in India isn’t quite like English in the United States or the United Kingdom, and Amazon clearly knows that. In India, Alexa will have “an all-new English voice with local pronunciations and intonation; support for music titles, names, and places in additional non-English languages,” the company said in a release.
Amazon also announced Wednesday that Alexa is coming to Japan “sometime later this year,” though it’s not clear that it will understand Japanese.
Amazon’s statement only says that the company is excited to make Alexa and Echo “available to our Japanese customers,” but never mentions the Japanese language, Kanji.
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Though don’t think that Alexa’s a monoglot. Last year Alexa was introduced in Germany, where it understands German.
And if you ascribe to the notion that England and the United States are two nations divided by a common language, in a pinch you could include Alexa’s United Kingdom version, which proudly uses the Queen’s English.
The Amazon announcement comes as Google is expected to introduce new versions of its Google Home digital assistant product — and that Home will be available in Japan later this week. Home has thus far lagged behind the Echo, which has 70% of the digital assistant market according to market tracker eMarketer.
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