Xiaomi released it’s answer to the Echo. It is nearly giving away this device ~$45 or free for certain customers. Xiaomi joins JD, Alibaba, Baidu, and others who are offering their own Echo equivalents. What’s interesting is that more of these companies are going to a free/freemium model for their hardware.
There is a ton of data that can be collected from unscrupulous hardware makers and this data can be used for benign or potentially aggressive marketing to the user. What will stick are those devices that are working very well, providing a great service for the user, and are able to create applications that keep users coming back for more.
It’s also likely that these models will make there way to North America. Maybe next Prime Day will offer free Echo Dots or Google will give away Homes as part of holiday promotion? When it becomes clear that the lifetime value of customers who use voice first devices is very large, companies will be compelled to remove as many barriers as possible. Maybe we’ll start getting devices in the mail like AOL CDs?