Amazon Leads Boom In Virtual Assistants, With Apple Way Behind

'Catching Apple asleep at the wheel, smart speakers are becoming the next big thing in consumer gadgetry. Year-over-year, in fact, the number of U.S. consumers using voice-activated assistant devices is up 128.9%, according to a new report from eMarketer.

On a monthly basis, that means about 35.6 million consumers are chatting with Google Home, Amazon Echo, or a similar device.

“Consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with the technology, which is driving engagement,” Martín Utreras, VP of forecasting at eMarketer, notes in the new report. “As prices decrease and functionality increases, consumers are finding more reasons to adopt these devices,” Utreras adds.

At least the for time being, Amazon is dominating this new category. Indeed, its Echo speaker will have 70.6% of users this year.

Meanwhile, Google Home will trail far behind with just 23.8% of the market, per eMarketer. The remaining portion will be shared among smaller players like Lenovo, LG, Harmon Kardon and Mattel.

Meanwhile, Apple’s smart speaker remains in the development stages.

Given Apple’s eventual entry into the marketplace, combined with Google’s continued investment in the space, eMarketer doesn’t expect Amazon to rule the smart-speaker roost forever.

Presently, eMarketer defines a voice-enabled speaker as a stand-alone device, the core functionality of which is a voice-enabled digital assistant. Not surprisingly, the broader category of virtual assistants -- the actual software inside various devices -- is also experiencing solid growth.

This year, eMarketer expects usage will grow by 23.1%. This category includes Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana.

This year, 60.5 million Americans will use Siri, Cortana or another virtual assistant at least once a month. That equates to 27.5% of smartphone users, or nearly one-fifth of the population.

This column was previously published in Moblog on May 9, 2017.

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