Friday, 01 March 2019 09:04

Amazon hangs on to beat Google in 2018 smart speaker shipments

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Amazon hangs on to beat Google in 2018 smart speaker shipments Courtesy Amazon

The smart speaker market enjoyed a boom in 2018 with global shipments reaching 78.0 million units, a rise of 125% from the 34.7 million shipped in 2017, the analyst firm Canalys says.

The tussle for top spot among vendors played out between Amazon and Google, with the former finally winning by a small margin. Amazon shipped 24.2 million of its Echo devices while Google shipped 23.4 million Home speakers.

However, Amazon's market share fell by more than half, from 63.4% in 2017 to 31.1% in 2018 as Chinese vendors Alibaba, Xiaomi and Baidu, whose sales are restricted to the country, gained in terms of shipments to take the third, fourth and fifth spots.

Canalys senior analyst Jason Low attributed Amazon's success to what he described as its well-timed refresh of the Echo line-up. The new devices, focused on better sound and aesthetics, and helped the company grow 31% in Q4.

"With the updated Echo range already in place for 2019, Amazon is expected to switch gears to extend Alexa's reach into areas such as automobiles via developers and ecosystem device vendors," said Low.

"Third parties that support Alexa are eagerly pursuing money-making and growth opportunities. If Amazon fails to support these companies, it could lead to waning commitment, which will be detrimental to the platform."

canalys smart speaker1

The Home Hub smart display was the highlight for Google in Q4. "Undercutting other smart displays at US$149, the Google Home Hub has a short-term advantage," said Low.

"Google quickly became the second largest smart display vendor in 2018 with just one quarter's shipments reaching 2.2 million units."

Smart display shipments are estimated to have reached 6.4 million units in 2018 or 8.3% of the total smart speaker market.

"The smart display category is relatively new. While its success is still far from proven, Chinese vendors will jump on the trend. But the category needs clear and strong use-cases beyond low prices to drive demand," said Low.

About four-fifths of the global smart speaker market is estimated to be dominated by Internet service providers and software companies.

"Leading smart device vendors, such as Samsung, Huawei and Apple, have failed to capitalise on the growth of smart assistants for home use," said Low.

"They will risk further loss of control, not only over the smart home segment, but in other areas, such as in-car and at-work scenarios, where smart assistant use and voice enablement are expected to increase in penetration and adoption rates.

"Hardware vendors must quickly pick the right user scenarios and form smart assistant strategies aimed at creating new use-cases for the intended scenarios. First-mover advantage is vital in the world of smart assistants, and the first to establish a user base in an important area will secure long-term success."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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