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Alibaba Launches Smart Home Division

Mike Wolf Alibaba Xiaomo

It looks like Xiaomi has some company.

Another Chinese tech giant has announced plans to enter the smart home space. Alibaba, a Chinese online commerce comglomerate, has announced they are creating a 'smart living' business unit.  While early details are sketchy - they indicate they'll sell connected products through their Tmall portal and also offer some cloud computing services and a crowdfunding platform - the announcement is notable in that Alibaba is such a massive player in online commerce. 

It's not too surprising that a company the size of Alibaba is starting to look at IoT.  After all, if they are watching Amazon's efforts (and I'm sure they are) at creating automated replenishment services for connected devices, they'll realize there's significant potential in 'connected commerce'.  

Also, while the launch of a crowdfunding site under the smart living division seems a bit of a strange choice, it makes one wonder if they're trying to facilitate the growth of a hardware manufacturing community to eventually help seed their store with products over time.  

What isn't clear from the initial vague pronouncements is if the company is creating a platform technology for the smart home. While there is some mention of cloud computing technology, the Alibaba pronouncements didn't go as far as Xiaomi, which gave a fairly clear indication of their intentions to create a technology platform of hardware and software for others to build smart home products with. 

Bottom line: Alibaba is a large player with lots of resources, so it's worth paying attention to their efforts here. However, it looks like they're a couple years behind the other tech players in the space, so there's no reason for these guys to lose sleep...yet.

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