Watch Out Alexa, Google is Coming Home

Posted on May 19, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Amazon, Android, Google, Hardware, iOS, Mobile, Smart Home with 36 Comments

I’ve long said that I expect Google Assistant usage to surpass that of Amazon Alexa. This is how it happens.

According to a recent Strategy Analytics report, sales of Google Assistant-based smart speakers jumped by over seven-fold in the past year, more than doubling Google’s market share in this market.

Here’s the data.

In the first quarter of 2017, Amazon sold 2 million Alexa-powered smart speakers and controlled 82 percent of the market. Google sold only 300,000 Home speakers.

This past quarter, a year later, Amazon smart speaker sales doubled to 4 million units. But Google’s smart speaker sales grew by 709 percent to 2.4 million units. Amazon’s market share has fallen to 44 percent, while Google’s has skyrocketed to 27 percent.

Apple, meanwhile, is languishing, according to Strategy Analytics: It sold only 600,000 HomePods in the quarter, good for 6 percent market share. (At least those sales register; Cortana makes no appearance in this report.)

And to be clear, this data is for smart speakers only: Google Assistant already dominates Alexa and other voice assistants overall, thanks to its strength on smartphones. But the reason the smart speaker market is so important is that Amazon basically invented it along with its digital assistant. And when Alexa is surpassed by Google Assistant in that market, the war is effectively over.

Not that Alexa goes away, of course: This market can most likely support both of these assistants, much like the PC, tablet, and smartphone markets support two major platforms in each. But it will be Google, not Amazon, that comes out on top.

 

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Comments (37)

37 responses to “Watch Out Alexa, Google is Coming Home”

  1. Avatar

    david.thunderbird

    Wait and see what happens after YouTube goes down the tubes or not. I'm not going to be casting about for a while.

    • Avatar

      Daekar

      In reply to david.thunderbird:

      Are there signs that YouTube will be going down the tubes? I mean, I know they have some seriously draconian and partisan censorship going on and their monetization policies have changed a bit, but I haven't noticed any channels I watch (and I sub to large and small channels) having issues. Is there something more coming?

  2. Avatar

    RonV42

    The fact that google has cut deals in so many channels to give, ah hum, "free" Google Home speakers . We all know that nothing is free from Google unless they are getting more back in return. Just go to any Verizon corporate store here in the Chicago area, buy say a Samsung and they will throw in a Google home mini.

  3. Avatar

    Daekar

    And anyone who didn't see this coming hasn't been paying attention.... at least since Alexa launched. There was never any reason to believe that Amazon would be able to compete, long-term, with Google in this arena. This just another way that Google will be eating the world.

  4. Avatar

    Bats

    This is not surprising and it shouldn't be. As a matter of fact, when Google Home was first released it was often compared to Amazon Echo. I feel sorry for all those people who were led to believe that the Google Home was headed towards insignificance by those of the tech blogosphere simply because Amazon had such a huge lead that. Those people either hated Google or not very smart.


    However, I don't feel sorry for all those who bought that $200 Harmon Kardon Invoke, which is not $99, due to extremely low or non-existent demand. For one thing, the Invoke was UGLY. Second, it had Cortana in it. Who really uses Cortana other than Satya Nadella? I think NO ONE. Cortana obviously has a strong presence on desktop, but who really uses it? It's SLOW! How about mobile? People say that Microsoft doesn't a present in mobile. That is soooooooooooooooo NOT TRUE. Windows Phone is just an Operating System. Cortana is just software that can be installed on Android and iOS. Therefore, Cortana and Microsoft have a very strong presence in mobile and not uses it.


    Look at the bright side, it makes a good baseball cap holder.


    Back to Google Home....


    I am starting to transition from having a household that is half Alexa and have Assistant to full Assistant. It just makes sense to me. With my Nest Thermostat, Nest Hello, All my smart light bulbs and plus, as well as the one room that has Android TV, .... I am just better off with the Assistant. After evaluating Roku, Amazon Firestick, and the Android TV (Nvida Shield), the Android TV is the best . With Google Home, I can make that thing turn on/off, change channels, show me the front door via Nest Hello, etc....


    The Google Home is just really,....REALLY that good.

    • Avatar

      wolters

      In reply to Bats:

      I made the transition from Echo to Google Home too. Took me a while but glad I finally did. It truly is better and it is getting better. As I mentioned in another post, if they would finally allow me to shuffle my music collection/library by voice command, it would be perfect. Still can't do that...


      Side note...this is going pretty much unnoticed, but Google Assistant on WearOS watches is making huge strides...it will not respond with voice when you ask it things, right on the watch...I think they are positioning it for a big comeback this fall.


      I've been very interested in AmazonTV, especially since I'm all in with YouTube Red and YouTube TV. I also have a Nest Hello. The Microsoft fan in me just can't let go of my XBOX One X as my media center. And truth be told, I could as I don't play many games.


      A mention about Cortana...I actually use it often on my PC when I don't have assistant available, which is rare. I've always liked Cortana but it will struggle to catch up.

  5. Avatar

    glenn8878

    Amazon sold double the amount of Alexa speakers compared with a year ago yet they are screwed. I think this is just too early to be concerned.

    • Avatar

      PeteB

      In reply to glenn8878:

      In the tech world theres no such thing as too early to be concerned. Amazon selling double the Alexa's of the year prior is great, but the nearest competition selling 12x of the prior year means it's gaining quickly.


      In the early part of this decade, Apple was doubling their iPhone sales for a few years too, until Android started selling 8x-12x year over year and blew by iPhone like it was standing still.

  6. Avatar

    RoHo

    Good I'm always for the underdog. I don't trust Google and am a happy Amazon Prime member and Fire user.

  7. Avatar

    wocowboy

    Google Home as a "smart assistant" is great, there is no doubt about that, but Google must do something about the sound quality of their speakers in order to get me to buy one. The quality of the sound that they put out is just horrific when compared to Apple's HomePod, there is just no way around that fact. The same thing can be said about any version of the Amazon Echo and their tinny, muffled audio with no high frequency or bass at all. Maybe people don't care about the sound quality of their smart assistant speakers, and that's fine if they don't, but there should be versions for people who do that aren't gigantic behemoth things that take over a shelf or cabinet. The HomePod's version of Siri is quite limited but it does work very well for Apple Music and basic queries, and the sound quality of music is just worlds better than either Google Home or Amazon Echo.

    • Avatar

      SvenJ

      In reply to wocowboy: Are you talking about the Google Home Max ($399) or the much cheaper Home and Mini? I wouldn't expect the latter to to compare with the HomePod ($349). Personnaly I'm buying an assistant for 'her' functionality. I have plenty of music options, some of which I can summon using the assistant. These things as music speakers first, seem to have a specific market, those with small places that don't already have decent sound systems. Maybe that's a big market, I don't know. I can plug a decent set of amplified speakers into my Echo Dot, if I need better sound in a specific room.


  8. Avatar

    sgbassett

    I have a Google Home and multiple Amazon Echo devices. So far, I like the Echo devices better. I have the Echo Connect, which turns my Echo devices into speaker phones, which is very convenient now that I have Echo devices in almost every room. I work primarily from home, so this works well for me.


    I also do several seminar presentations each year. For my last presentation, I used my Amazon Tap, the portable Echo device, to assist in the presentation by programming in custom questions and responses using Amazon's very simple Alexa Blueprints feature. I connected the Tap to my iPhone X's personal hotspot and it worked well. The audience thought it was interesting and funny as I had Alexa give sometimes informative and sometimes insulting responses to my questions.


    I have recently learned that Google Home can also be coaxed into doing the same with "repeat after me [answer]" functions. I may try that for my next seminar presentation, but I would need to get a battery base for my Google Home. And I need to figure out if the Google Home can connect as easily as an Echo device to a phone's personal hotspot service.


    Perhaps we are all just destined to become straight men to these talking cylinders.

    • Avatar

      SvenJ

      In reply to sgbassett: You don't really need a 'battery base' for either the smaller Echo's or the Google Home Mini. Must people have one cell phone battery pack laying around. If not they are a good investment to keep around for emergencies/power outages. They are 5v just like the assistant power supplies and power them just fine for a decent amount of time.


  9. Avatar

    ponsaelius

    Cortana, as a consumer product, will be unlikely to register. Microsoft have no real consumer strategy except for games. I would go so far as to say they have developed a consumer hostile strategy to try and reduce the cost of "free services". Not having a mobile platform has damaged Cortana but even where people want to use Cortana the strategy is "US Only" so that the market is reduced further.


    No surprises there. Apple's play relies on Apple only products. Now many Apple buyers do use Apple music but Spotify is the market leader and playing with Spotify needs to be a thing on your home speaker.


    It is Google versus Amazon at home. Google is helped a lot by mobile and Alexa has first move advantage. It's an interesting battle.

  10. Avatar

    Angusmatheson

    This is a really important issue. The sales estimates are the best key to the relative strengths of each platform. I agree the next great platform will be natural language, ambient computing. Smart speakers are a really important vehicle for this (as are phones and wearables...but interestingly I don’t find voice control on computers very useful. If I’m in front of a computer I never use Siri or Cortana - I always just type it because I have a keyboard). Apple has blown lots of chances 1) Siri came out first and allowed to languish, 2) bought Beats and delayed a smart speaker for years, 3) no mesh networking built in to device. I suspect every room will have a smart speaker is market is going to be huge. But there are some interesting questions. 1) will HomePod be like Apple Watch slow start but progressive growing 2) can google really sell successful hardware - none of their products has ever had widespread commercial success 3) will privacy concerns (favoring Siri?), functionality (favoring Google), or head start and shopping (favoring Amazon), or social (favoring Facebook’s delayed device) give one an advantage - or will we use all of them for specific tasks? What worries me about that list is I can’t think of any advantages for Cortana other than bing and PC install base. 4) what will it mean when we talk to computers all day long. Can computers really get good, because right now it is really frustrating. When it is good will we want to talk to people anymore? What will it mean when our digital assistant knows where we are all the time, what we are doing, what we are talking about.

  11. Avatar

    dcdevito

    I don't know how anyone didn't see this coming. Any Assistant can only get exponentially better due to the sheer prowess of their data collection capabilities, along with owning the most used OS in the world, and developing their Knowledge Graph. It all equated to a smarter Virtual Assistant.

    These stats sound eerily familiar don't they? I remember reading every quarter how much Android's market share grew.

    • Avatar

      Daekar

      In reply to dcdevito:

      Agreed. Amazon is doing the best they can, but they have to know that their early lead doesn't count for much, especially given the seriously limited utility of the current generation of products. As much as their alliance with Microsoft for Cortana integration sounded strange, it makes sense in this context - they are perfectly well aware that Google is gunning for them, and that they have the biggest guns in the world.

  12. Avatar

    shameermulji

    "Apple, meanwhile, is languishing, according to Strategy Analytics: It sold only 600,000 HomePods in the quarter, good for 6 percent market share."


    Considering that 1) HomePod missed the Xmas shopping season, 2) launched in only 3 countries, 3) Did not include the AirPlay 2 / Stereo-pairing feature at launch, 4) has a starting price of $349, 600,000 units sold in the first quarter is pretty darn good.

  13. Avatar

    xapache

    I'm glad I didn't fall down that Microsoft experiment hole again...The HK Cortana speaker sounds great but because they entered too late AND once again didn't market this speaker nobody should be surprised when it fails.


    This is my biggest complaint with Microsoft, yes there may be bigger issues but this is huge. Don't sell an expensive piece of kit unless your heart and soul is really in it for the long haul.

  14. Avatar

    PincasX

    Ohhh... journalism how I miss thee.


    Can we at least call out that all of these unit sales are just guesses rather than call them "data". They are educated guesses at best.


    Blindly repeating rumor as fact is how you made a giant ass of yourself after you took multiple victory laps celebrating the failure of just about every Apple product only to have Apple report a record quarter.

    • Avatar

      Stooks

      In reply to PincasX:

      So true. Nothing but guesses. Repeating data from the same sources that said the iPhone X was a failure.


      I want to be an analysts and get paid to be right 30% or less of the time.



    • Avatar

      andreju

      In reply to PincasX:

      Very well said. I've come to dread and roll my freaking eyes more and more often at some of Paul's articles. I don't know why I bother coming back, some sort of reflex. Nowadays he seems to hate everybody, including Microsoft. Petty Thurrott

  15. Avatar

    skane2600

    As with the growth of Chromebooks, the growth in Google Home devices is at least partially a function of how few devices are already out there. It's when competing products have similar installed bases that comparisons in growth are truly significant.

  16. Avatar

    velevobowi

    KFC launched a web portal to collect the customer feedback survey. As the company believes that the feedback survey helps them to improve their business and reach out to customer expectations and needs.

    http://mykfcexperience.surveyh.info/

  17. Avatar

    PeteB

    I got a free Home Mini with my Pixel 2 and figured I'd just ebay it, but then the girlfriend plugged it in and now we can't live without it. Never had an echo so I don't know how Alexa compares, but for anyone already in the Google ecosystem there's bound to be more synergy between services since one account controls everything. Amazon doesn't have an ecosystem per se' and Alexa seems geared toward shopping.


    Ebay has a deal now where if you spend $150 you get a free home mini. Embarrassed to say I think I'm getting another for upstairs.


    Youre right, Paul. "This is how it happens".

  18. Avatar

    obarthelemy

    I'm wondering how relevant unit sales are. Moar is better, and they're all in it for the content and smart-things sales, but only marginally.

    Apple is it in for the hardware profit and the lock-in. Amazon is in it for the sales on Amazon.com. Google is in it for the ads. That must make the success criteria for each very different, and, for now, unfathomed, since we have absolutely zero data on any of those 4 outcomes.

    • Avatar

      Stooks

      In reply to obarthelemy:

      Great point. All of them are in it for different reasons. Google is to collect data and IMHO the worst reason. I do not trust Google anymore than I would Facebook. When AD sales make up 80+% (probably north of 90%) of your revenue and profit I want nothing to do with you. At least Amazon and Apple have actual products.


      Also all of these so called "digital" assistants are just DUMB. Nothing but gimmicks right now. They need another 5-10 years before they can be talked to like you talk to another person. That and mountains of data, your data.

  19. Avatar

    wolters

    I was firmly in the Alexa camp but I have taken a chance on Google Home and it sounds like it might have been a good decision. I just had overload between multiple music subscriptions and assistants that I decided to just embrace Google Home and Assistant. I use Google Home Max, Google Home and a few Mini's around the house. I have a Nest Doorbell and I use Google assistant often for reminders and to add items to shopping list. I even squeeze my Pixel 2 XL for the Assistant. The only thing I wish Google Home did was shuffle my entire music library (both subscribed and what I've uploaded) by music command. I am not sure why this hasn't come as of yet but perhaps it will be fixed with YouTube Music's roll-out. I've not missed Alexa at all.

  20. Avatar

    Jorge Garcia

    Everyone knows that Google can, and probably will, misuse and abuse their power one day...but right now I'm much happier giving them my data than Amazon. I will be getting a Google Home Mini soon, for sure.

  21. Avatar

    melinau

    I have both, and Google's effort has improved significantly since I bought it. Echo, OTOH doesn't appear to have got much better at undersranding or executing commands.


    Having said that, I'm dubious about having any Google device permanantly "listening", nor indeed connected in any way to my network, especially now they've dropped the (broken) "Don't be Evil" motto.

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