Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Baidu's upcoming Raven R smart speaker. Image: Baidu

Last week, all Amazon had to do was buy a pharmacy startup to wipe $15 billion in value off competing drug chains — but in the booming market for smart assistants, it's Amazon that's been getting its clock cleaned.

What's going on: In the first quarter of 2016, Amazon Echo held 80% of the global smart assistant market, according to Canalys. Chinese companies were so far behind that they registered zero. But just a year later, Amazon has collapsed to a 28% market share, behind Google Home's 36% and ahead of China's Alibaba and Xiaomi with a combined 19%.

The context: Amazon had a strong head start with its Echo lineup, which launched in 2014. But now it's losing ground both in the U.S. and China, the leading markets for the devices.

In China, the government is favoring local makers. Regulations restrict foreign cloud platforms, which voice assistants generally require in order to process and apply voice inputs.

Chinese manufacturers have also been aggressive on price, and U.S. companies barely seem to be trying:

  • Chinese companies are making extremely inexpensive smart speakers. Alibaba's Tmall Genie can be bought for $15 on sale — and Baidu recently dropped one of its models from $39 to $14, according to a report from CB Insights. These speakers can also be shipped internationally, running Amazon Alexa when sold abroad.
  • Major foreign voice assistants are nowhere to be seen in the Chinese market.
  • One reason: They have mostly failed even to get the language right. Apple's Siri has cracked China's notoriously difficult languages, speaking two dialects each of Cantonese and Mandarin, but the company's HomePod speaker only has English and — in any case — isn't for sale in China. Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant offer no Chinese language support.

What to watch: The fight for the global market will continue to heat up. For now, U.S. software has a significant leg up with non-Chinese language capabilities, says CB's Deepashri Varadharajan. But they might find it increasingly difficult to compete with inexpensive Chinese hardware.

Go deeper: The smart speaker war is on.

Go deeper

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.

8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Kaine, Collins pitch Senate colleagues on censuring Trump

Sen. Tim Kaine speaks with Sen. Susan Collins. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP via Getty Images

Sens. Tim Kaine and Susan Collins are privately pitching their colleagues on a bipartisan resolution censuring former President Trump, three sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios.

Why it matters: Senators are looking for a way to condemn Trump on the record as it becomes increasingly unlikely Democrats will obtain the 17 Republican votes needed to gain a conviction in his second impeachment.