Russia’s Yandex unveils Plus, a Prime-style service for $2.75/month, ‘Station’ smart speaker and Alice skills – TechCrunch

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Russian search large Yandex is usually described because the “Google of Russia”, however perhaps it must be described because the Amazon of Russia, too.

The corporate immediately took the wraps off Yandex.Plus, a service modelled on Amazon Prime that offers customers a variety of perks for a month-to-month charge — 169 roubles/month, or about $2.75. On prime of that, the corporate is making its first foray into with a brand new, $160 sensible speaker, Yandex.Station, and a brand new abilities platform, known as Yandex.Dialogues, for the Russian-speaking clever assistant it unveiled final 12 months, known as Alice.

The Station speaker and Plus might be accessible solely in Russia, and the three had been all unveiled in Moscow on the firm’s annual what’s-new occasion, which it calls But One other Convention.

Plus, which is out there now, options embrace entry to streaming service Yandex.Music; storage service Yandex.Disc; reductions for Yandex.Taxi (its Uber-like transportation service, which has partly acquired Uber’s Russian property and now runs it in a JV); free deliveries and early entry to Yandex.Market (an e-commerce market that’s in beta); movie and TV streaming via its video service KinoPoisk; and expedited providers and reductions for Yandex.Drive, its car-sharing service.

(Yandex.Drive’s touchdown web page underscores simply how Anglicised the Russian language has develop into in all issues tech, and tech-related: Its huge lettering proclaims “Каршеринг” — the Russian transliteration for “Automotive sharing.”)

The Station speaker, which is able to go on sale later this summer season. was a much-rumored work in progress for the corporate after it first introduced Alice final 12 months.

The brand new product comes at an necessary time for Yandex on two fronts: competitors from different tech firms throughout all its providers, and particularly competitors in its core enterprise of search.

Whereas Amazon with its Echo, Google with its Dwelling gadget and Apple with its personal HomePod all have ambitions to make their very own sensible speaker performs as worldwide as doable, none of them should date entered the Russian market, which means that Yandex has a window of alternative to construct up its personal buyer base and ecosystem on this space forward of any of them transferring in.

Certainly, that has partly been the corporate’s technique from day one. Yandex Search, the corporate’s first and unique (and nonetheless core) product launched and gained market share at a time when engines like google outdoors the nation both didn’t search in Russian or just did it poorly.

However with the progress of time, different engines like google have began to work a lot better within the nation, and so whereas Yandex is presently number-one, its market share has slowly eroded to Google — immediately Yandex has round a 53 p.c share to Google’s 43 p.c, after a a lot wider hole years in the past. This implies additionally an erosion of the corporate’s revenues from search, and this, too, is partly additionally why Yandex has expanded into different market segments, together with those being introduced immediately: with a view to diversify.

Yandex is fast to level out that Station is not only one other “me too” product, although.

Station, it says, “is the primary sensible speaker to include a full video streaming expertise” by the use of an HDMI output that customers can hyperlink as much as a display screen, after which ask Alice to seek for and playback movies, motion pictures and tv exhibits Yandex’s personal KinoPoisk, ivi and Amediateka (which streams HBO in Russia) and others.

It additionally works with different music streaming gadgets through Bluetooth, Yandex says, and has all the fundamental options which have shortly develop into the norm with sensible audio system: customers can set alarms, take heed to music, information and climate, and use the Station as a diversion for kids, with story telling and different options.

As for Dialogues, the service was in beta testing for 3 months prior to now, and the concept is similar to the talents that may be created for Amazon’s Alexa. Builders of third-party apps can combine them into Alice so that individuals can use these apps with a voice interface, and in addition when utilizing Alice to name up info or order issues.

To sweeten the deal, Yandex says that the Dialogues interface will even make outcomes discoverable via Yandex’s text-base search outcomes, too.

Yandex, working inside Russia, has at all times had a a lot much less confrontational relationship with the federal government than different firms on the subject of how info is saved and doubtlessly accessed by the state. However contemplating the strikes that a few of its fellow Russian firms have made, as Yandex continues to maneuver deeper right into a wider vary of providers, it will likely be attention-grabbing to see how and if its place continues to stay this fashion.

Extra to come back.


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