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Alibaba launches smart TV with e-payment functions

By Tu Lei (Global Times)

09:48, July 24, 2013

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Tuesday unveiled a smart TV operating system (OS) featuring e-­payment functions and launched a set-top box in cooperation with Wasu Media Holding Co, a bold foray into the growingly fierce smart TV market.

Unlike its peers, the OS, which links TVs with the Internet, will allow users to shop and pay bills via their TVs, as well as making utility payments through Alipay and accessing digital content.

Alibaba officials said the set-top box, which will be called the Wasu Rainbow, is expected to be released in the next two or three months, but did not disclose the price of the device.

The cooperation between Alibaba and Wasu could generate a competitive edge as the former has a wide user base and the latter has a comprehensive supply of content for digital television, home appliance expert Liu Buchen told the Global Times Tuesday.

Wasu Media is one of the first companies to receive an Internet TV license from the government. Its stock price soared by 27 percent for the three consecutive trading days through Monday.

According to Alibaba, several Chinese hardware makers including Skyworth have agreed to make TVs incorporating the Alibaba Smart TV OS.

In June, Goldman Sachs Gao Hua Securities predicted that the users of Internet TV would hit 77 million by 2015 from 9.5 million in 2012.

But Goldman analyst Liao Xufa warned that copycat set-tops and content piracy could be barriers to development.

Zhang Bing, director of ­China market research at DisplaySearch, told the Global Times Tuesday that the market for set-top boxes is far from mature, with hindrances including slow broadband speeds in China and varying degrees of customer knowledge about how to manage the devices.

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