Google is Catching Up to Amazon in Smart Speakers

Posted on August 15, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Smart Home with 11 Comments

Two new reports point to an inevitable conclusion: Google could overtake Amazon in the smart speaker market as soon as this coming holiday season.

NPD, which tracks consumer usage in the United States, notes an explosive demand for what it calls voice-activated speakers.

“Voice-activated speaker sales are expected to experience 50 percent U.S. dollar growth from 2016-2017 to 2018-2019,” the firm notes. “Demand for voice control in streaming speakers will grow the segment to nearly $2.7 billion by 2019.”

As good, 19 percent of U.S. consumers plan to purchase a smart speaker in the next year, NPD claims.

NPD doesn’t discuss the market leaders, but it does point out that this overall growth is “overtaxing” traditional wireless networks, leading to related growth in wireless mesh networking equipment. (You may recall that both Brad and I have moved to mesh networking at home. I’m using Google Wifi and Brad is using the Amplifi HD Mesh Wi-Fi System.)

Meanwhile, a related report from Strategy Analytics, which examines the global market for smart speakers, shows how quickly Google is catching up to Amazon.

Sales of Google Assistant-powered smart speakers surged by 420 percent in the previous quarter compared to a year ago, while sales of Amazon speakers grew just 64 percent. So Amazon’s lead has collapsed: The firm now controls 41 percent of this market, compared to 76 percent a year earlier. Google is in second place with 28 percent, up from just 16 percent a year ago.

As is the case in the smartphone market, however, the smart speaker market is impacted by two outside factors: Apple and China.

Thanks to its “fiercely loyal fan base,” Apple’s terrible and expensive HomePod smart speaker somehow accounted for almost 6 percent of sales in the quarter, good for fourth place. And China-based Alibaba, which sells only in China, is doing even better with 8 percent market share, good for third place.

“The fast-growing Chinese market is dominated by local powerhouse brands such as Alibaba, JD.com, and Baidu,” Strategy Analytics director David Watkins says. “China has the potential to be a hugely lucrative market for smart speakers and the voice assistant platforms that power them and Google’s recent $500 million strategic partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com is a sign that it is deadly serious about not missing the opportunity.”

My guess is that Google and Amazon will be at least neck-and-neck in the smart speaker market by the end of the 2018 holiday season.

 

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