''It would be very silly of us not to think about it''

Yandex has launched smart speaker following Western tech giants

''It would be very silly of us not to think about it'' Photo: Anton Nossik

Russia's major tech company, Yandex, firmly dominates the local search engine market and is rapidly expanding into other market segments like ride-sharing and e-commerce. A few days ago, the company launched its own smart speaker, which has every chance to conquer the Russian market amid the absence of any such product from global players.

Russian Yandex is not leaving much room for outside players to come in and scoop up market share, considers PYMNTS.com. At the moment, the company owns 53% of the search engine market in Russia, although Google has recently slightly increased its share (now it has 43%). This steady erosion was likely a factor of Yandex's expansion into other market segments, assumes the source.

Over the past years, Yandex has grown to be something like Russia's own version of Google mixed with Uber. Now the company is making a move towards Amazon by launching its Prime-like Yandex.Plus membership and Yandex.Station smart speaker. The news was announced on 29 May during the annual Yandex event called Yet Another Conference.

Although Amazon, Google and Apple have been already fighting for the world's smart speaker market for a while, none of them has officially entered the Russian market segment. Earlier, Yandex didn't confirm its plans for developing a competing solution. Nonetheless, when Yandex presented its virtual assistant Alice last October, head of the company's Machine Intelligence and Research Division Misha Bilenko told reporters that ''it would be very silly of us not to think about it hard''.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and CEO of Yandex Arkady Volozh. Photo: government.ru

The speaker developed by Yandex costs $160 and does some extra stuff in addition to such usual functions as setting alarms, playing music and checking the news or weather. It is the first smart speaker that powers video streaming via HDMI output. Users can link the output to a screen and ask Alice to find and play videos, films and TV shows both on and off Yandex's KinoPoisk streaming platform.

The company has also launched Yandex.Plus membership that gives users access to a number of services, such as music, film, and TV streaming (Yandex.Music and KinoPoisk); cloud storage (Yandex.Disc); ride-sharing discounts (Yandex.Taxi and Yandex.Drive); free delivery and early access to its developing eCommerce marketplace Yandex.Market. The membership costs 169 rubles (around $2,75) per month, which is much more affordable than Amazon Prime's $119 a year.

Although Yandex is not that popular in the global market, it seems to have achieved the level of ubiquity in Russia that could make outside competitors' jobs much trickier, warns the source, adding that when global players like Amazon, Google or Apple turn to Russia, they shouldn't be surprised to find that the ship has sailed without them.

By Anna Litvina
Analytics