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French telco Orange has announced that it is building its own answer to Amazon's Echo and Dash devices in the shape of an artificial intelligence (AI) assistant, incorporated into a standalone speaker and a TV remote, and a button that performs a single action for consumers. Orange has partnered with German incumbent Deutsche Telekom and aims to launch the AI assistant in early 2018 and the button in 4Q17. The move is in keeping with Orange's converged strategy, leveraging mobile, fixed, and smart home offerings, as well as its experience in creating Orange-branded devices, such as smartphones or tablets.

Orange aims to get into French homes before Alexa

The two products were unveiled at an Orange event in Paris, along with a new banking business featuring AI backed by IBM's Watson. Djingo, the AI assistant, will be available via a smartphone app, a standalone speaker, and a TV remote control similar to Amazon's Fire TV, and users will be able to activate it with the phrase "OK Djingo." It also uses AI tools from IBM, as well as from Microsoft, and promises functions such as sending text messages, music playback, and searching Orange's video on-demand catalog.

Livebutton is similar to Amazon's Dash button. However, instead of focusing on purchases, the device is designed to let users perform specific tasks or functions with the press of a button. Use cases mentioned include turning off all the lights before leaving home or sending parents an SMS to tell them their kids have returned home. It will connect via a LoRa network or via 2G and can be programmed through a mobile app.

By launching these products, Orange is clearly aiming to preempt the likes of Amazon and Google in offering an AI-based interactive audio speaker in France and the rest of its footprint markets. Amazon's Alexa is currently localized for the US, the UK, and Germany, while Google Assistant is available in the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, and Australia, but only through the Pixel phone because the Google Home speaker is only available in the US. Orange's presence in key European markets offers it the chance to get consumers used to its own devices. More importantly, it offers the company the chance to learn for itself what the consumers are searching for, what they're buying, and how they use Djingo or Livebutton to power the smart home. Partnering with Deutsche Telekom offers a foothold into even more markets, particularly in Eastern Europe.

Djingo and Livebutton also play into Orange's existing converged telco strategy, with mobile services, fixed services, and smart home services in the form of Z-Wave–based platform Homelive. The company has a history of designing own-branded devices, such as smartphones or tablets, so an interactive audio speaker presents the next logical step for the company.


Further reading

Smart Home Case Study: Amazon, TE0003-000936 (September 2016)

"CES 2017: Consumer IoT gets a voice and it's called Alexa," TE0004-001140 (January 2017)


Francesco Radicati, Senior Analyst, Consumer Technology

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