The Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi will release for the Russian market a “smart speaker” with “Marusya” from Mail.ru Group. Previously, the company worked with Yandex in Russia, integrating support for Alice into its gadgets, although it did not release partner devices with it. Pre-installation in the column of Xiaomi, the leader in smart home solutions in the Russian market, is beneficial for Mail.ru Group, experts say. But while maintaining the work of the Chinese company with Yandex, Marusa will not be able to significantly increase its market share.
Two sources in the distribution market for mobile devices told Kommersant that Xiaomi plans to introduce a smart speaker with a pre-installed voice assistant Marusya from Mail.ru Group on the Russian market within a month. Xiaomi and Mail.ru Group declined to comment.
Until now, Xiaomi has worked closely with Yandex and its Alice, through which, since 2019, it is possible to control devices for a “smart home” from Xiaomi (it became possible to control its gadgets through “Marusya” only in February of this year). A source in the distribution market claims that the partners had disagreements: the vendor did not like that Yandex allowed Alice to work on devices that were not certified for Russia, for example, made for China.
In “Yandex”, however, they assured that the partnership with Xiaomi is “developing”, more than half a million of its devices are connected to “Alice”. The Xiaomi representative in Russia also claims that the company does not intend to abandon cooperation with Yandex. Another source of Kommersant claims that the Mail.ru Group and Xiaomi project allegedly has a “monetary component”.
Arkady Markaryan, an independent expert in the field of electronics, notes that Xiaomi now occupies a significant share of the market for smart home devices in Russia, while Marusya is integrated only into two of the company’s own devices – Capsule and Capsule Mini – and a column for the Prestigio brand. Yandex has more partner columns – they are produced by LG, JBL, Elari and Prestigio.
According to the analytical center GS Group, in 2020 about 1 million Yandex smart speakers with Alisa and 59 thousand columns of Mail.ru Group with Marusya were delivered to Russia. Yandex’s revenue from the sale of speakers in 2020 amounted to about 4 billion rubles. Marvel Distribution calculated that sales of speakers with voice assistants in Russia in January-May 2021 grew by one and a half times year-on-year, to 300 thousand devices, including the share of Yandex’s own speakers – 256 thousand, others devices with “Alice” – 30 thousand, the rest – speakers with other voice assistants (“Marusya”, Alexa, Siri, etc.). Sales of speakers with the assistant “Marusya” did not exceed 11 thousand devices, concluded in the distributor.
Mobile Research Group analyst Eldar Murtazin notes that all smartphones in which Yandex services are preinstalled have Alice by default, including Xiaomi devices. According to the expert, Xiaomi can develop cooperation with Mail.ru Group in parallel with Yandex, but then Marusya will be able to take no more than 2% of the voice assistants market from Alisa.
Cooperation with Xiaomi will be much more profitable for Mail.ru Group than for a Chinese vendor, says Sergey Vilianov, an analyst at Fintech Lab. “Xiaomi is a very valuable partner, it will bring a lot of benefits to the development of Marusya, which is still far behind its key competitor,” he notes.
Xiaomi is one of the main suppliers of smart speakers in the world, but in local markets outside Asia, the company’s positions are weak, and they can only be strengthened through integration with local or global voice assistants, says Kirill Petrov, managing director of Just AI. The appearance of partner devices with “Marusya” makes it possible to acquaint a larger number of users with the ecosystem, he continues. But the expert also doubts that the partnership between Xiaomi and Mail.ru Group can become a serious “challenge for Yandex’s leading positions in the market.”