Alibaba expands cloud products with livestream shopping in its battle against Amazon

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Zhang Jianfeng, president of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, speaks during the opening ceremony of Alibaba Renhe Cloud Data Center on September 16, 2020 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China.
Qian Chenfei | China News Service | Getty Images

GUANGZHOU, China — Alibaba has launched a slew of new cloud computing products as the Chinese e-commerce giant looks to expand across Asia.

Cloud computing is seen as a key profit driver for Alibaba over the long term and in the past few years, it has been boosting its presence aggressively outside of China.

On Tuesday, Alibaba announced plans to open a new data center in the Philippines by the end of the year and launched a third data center in Indonesia. Expanding data centers allows cloud providers to boost their capacity in certain countries or regions.

Alibaba also launched a cloud-based livestreaming product designed for online shopping. It will allow e-commerce players to launch a live stream shopping feature on their websites or apps that are hosted on Alibaba’s cloud.

Livestream shopping usually involves a host talking about products that customers can buy directly via the live broadcast. It has become very popular in China and is growing in other parts of Asia.

The Chinese e-commerce firm hopes that such a product can help it stand out from U.S. rivals including Microsoft and Amazon in the cloud market.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Alibaba was the biggest public cloud market vendor at the end of 2020 with a 19.2% share, according to IDC, boosted by success in China. Amazon was second with a 10.5% share.

However, in the global market, Alibaba still trails Microsoft, Amazon and Google.

Alibaba’s cloud announcements come after it reported its first net loss as a public company in the January to March quarter. The company was hit with a massive $2.8 billion fine as a result of an anti-monopoly investigation by Chinese authorities.

Maggie Wu, Alibaba’s CFO, said the company would invest “incremental profits and additional capital” in “new businesses and key strategic areas” in its current fiscal year.

In China, Alibaba faces growing competition from other technology giants including Huawei and Tencent which more recently have stepped up their cloud computing investments.