Amazon’s Echo, Plus and Dot speakers will finally be available in Japan starting next week. Alexa SVP Tom Taylor said the company designed an all-new experience “from the ground up for Japanese customers, including a new Japanese voice, local knowledge and over 250 skills from Japanese developers.”
Users in the country can issue typical Alexa voice commands in their native tongue. They can, say, listen to news from Japanese media companies like NHK, TBS TV, TV TOKYO, Asahi Newspaper and Mainichi Newspaper. They can ask Alexa for the local weather forecast, as well as questions about local celebs, locations, prominent dates in the country and even the spelling of English words.
To prepare for the devices’ arrival in the island nation, the e-retail giant taught the voice assistant how to understand and respond in the Japanese language.
Amazon also wants to make sure third-party developers can create unique experiences for Japanese users, so it has given them access to Alexa’s Skills Kit. Japanese companies will even be able to use Alexa’s Voice Service soon, which will give them the power to embed Alexa into their devices, services and maybe even their robots. If you’re in Japan, the basic Echo, the Echo Plus with built-in smart home hub and the tiny Echo Dot speaker will set you back 11,980 yen ($105), 17,980 yen ($158) and 5,980 yen ($53), respectively when they start shipping on November 13th.
Per sources, Amazon doesn’t dominate Japan like the U.S. and parts of Europe since local player Rakuten is the nation’s top e-commerce firm it is also present in financial services and other areas but that hasn’t stopped it from showing serious ambition. Amazon has offered ebooks in Japan since 2010, and today it has a full suit of Prime services that includes same day deliveries for customers in Japan.
Adding these new devices and Alexa might help boost Amazon’s presence in Japan but it is unlikely to topple Rakuten. That said, the Japanese market is the third largest global economy which makes even grabbing a small slice of the pie potentially lucrative.
Amazon unveiled a ‘basic edition’ of its Fire TV Stick that ships to over 100 markets worldwide in a follow-up to the global expansion of its Prime Video service nearly one year ago. This new Fire TV Stick is missing Alexa since it is not supported worldwide but it could help boost Amazon’s presence in other markets in Asia, Africa and elsewhere before the company drills deeper with these connected devices and Alexa.