With the majority of the holiday shopping season now behind us, we can take a high-level look to see how various companies performed during the season. Specifically, when it comes to digital assistants, app installs are generally a good benchmark of performance.
Looking at both the iOS app store and Google Play, Amazon appears to have had a home run of a holiday season with its Alexa app topping charts for both platforms. Google has a Google Home app that is at the number 6 position for top free apps for iOS and number 2 position on Android, indicating that its hardware also sold well this year.
There are also two other players, Microsoft and Apple and the story is quite clear here. Apple’s hardware isn’t available which means it missed out entirely and Microsoft doesn’t appear to have performed much better with Cortana not showing up on either app store top free list.
Amazon, who is clearly happy with the results, pushed out a press release saying they sold millions of more devices this year but they don’t provide any hard numbers. Google hasn’t said anything at this time but its performance in the app stores show that it sold quite a few devices as well.
What this means is that as of now, the smart speaker market is still a two-horse race with Amazon clearly leading but Google is making inroads. Cortana, with the Harman Kardon speaker, does not appear to be selling well this year which further plagues on Microsoft’s issue of expanding the assistant’s footprint outside of Windows 10.
I’ll be curious to see how well Apple can play in this market when they finally get their Home Pod out the door and of course for Microsoft, they seriously need to work on a new strategy here as this year was another failure for Cortana when compared to Alexa or Google’s products.
The strong sales were likely fueled by low-cost products like the Echo from Amazon and Home Mini from Google that can be found for under $30 whereas Microsoft’s only product with Cortana is at least $99 if you grab it on sale. Apple and Microsoft both have iOS/Windows to keep their fan base connected to their assistants but smart speakers are quickly showing that this method significantly increases engagement with the services.
The next few years will be critical for these digital assistants as ambient computing becomes more popular and while the race is far from over, Microsoft and Apple are finding themselves well-behind Amazon and Google. Apple will likely be ok in the long-term as it sells millions of iPhones every quarter which promotes the use of Siri but Microsoft, even with Windows 10 adoption growing, has yet to move Cortana outside the walls of the desktop OS with any meaningful success.