Buried in this week’s announcement about HomePod availability, Apple claims that Siri now has over half a billion active users.
Now, I understand why some might take exception to that number. Siri, after all, is terrible. But with an ecosystem that is over a billion strong between active iOS devices—iPhone, iPad, iPod touch—and the Mac, I find this number a bit more believable than, say, Microsoft’s easily-refuted number of Edge users.
That said, I still have questions.
“Siri [is] now actively used on over half a billion devices,” Apple casually notes in its HomePod announcement. (So casually that I missed it earlier in the week.)
So there’s the number. Half a billion, or 500 million. The question, of course, is how this compares to active users of other digital personal assistant platforms.
Let’s start with the also-ran. As you may have heard in early 2017 and then again in early 2018, Microsoft is “playing the long game” with Cortana. This is corporate-speak for having no strategy whatsoever, I believe. And that is borne out by the numbers.
We’ve been tracking Cortana usage here at Thurrott.com for quite some time. Back in late 2016, Brad wrote that Cortana usage had grown from 100 million in mid-2016 to 145 million by the end of the year. That’s a big jump. But that was where Cortana usage plateaued, too: By October 2017, Cortana usage had barely moved, to just 148 million active users. That was the last we heard.
OK, how about Google Assistant? As of mid-2017, Google noted that Google Assistant, which was less than a year old at that point, was running on over 100 million devices. This seems low, and does not equate to active users, but remember that you need to actively install the software or buy a new Android device to get it. Given the explosion of Google Assistant-powered smart speakers and other devices at CES 2018, I expect Assistant usage to skyrocket in 2018. Google, if you will, is playing the full game.
Amazon, the perceived market leader, is tight-lipped about Alexa usage. We know that their assistant is on some low double-digit number of Echo smart speakers, but that’s about it. A mid-2017 report about digital assistant usage—which is US-only—claimed that Alexa usage grew dramatically last year, albeit to just 2.6 monthly million users. (Which is not exactly the same as active users.)
My take on this is that Siri usage isn’t as high as what Apple is reporting but that Apple’s advantages—first to market, and on super-popular devices—is what really drives this usage.
Some may look at these numbers and believe that Cortana is somehow more popular than Alexa or Google Assistant. That’s ludicrous, and Microsoft’s measure of “active users” of Cortana is just as suspicious as those for Edge. At CES this year, Brad and I spoke to several PC makers on and off the record, and their customers’ desires were made clear: They want Alexa and Google Assistant, not Cortana.
But the popularity of Siri, despite its lackluster functionality, cannot be understated. When thinking about Siri, as with HomePod, I would caution Apple doubters and haters to temper their opinions with a bit of reality: Apple’s customer base is very loyal and very eager to spend money. One should never doubt Apple’s ability to establish a minority platform that his nonetheless a huge success. And Siri, I think, is a great example of that.
Tagged with Siri