Amazon’s Echo, Google Home and all manner of voice controlled smart home devices are set to have a breakout year of sales in 2017. These ‘voice first’ gadgets are set to sell 24.5 million units this year. That might not sound immediately impressive but well, it is because it’s more than three times the 6.5 million sold in 2016, which was a big leap from 1.7 million in 2015.
Sure, that’s according to a report from VoiceLabs which itself is involved in voice app development and analytics. But we’ve seen it coming for months now.
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Amazon is, of course, leading the charge with the sales of the Echo, Echo Dot, Tap and – for this year – third party Alexa powered devices. But Google is bringing on partners like Belkin and Honeywell in an attempt to stave off an Amazon takes all smart home scenario.
Add in rumours of a Microsoft Cortana powered smart speaker with Harman Kardon and perhaps something from Samsung or Apple and it means that this estimated 24.5 million sales won’t automatically be Alexa tech.
What are people using voice tech for?
In a VoiceLabs survey in December 2016, 46.7% of people said they use their Echo or Home for playing music or audiobooks; 29.1% to control smart home gadgets; 29% for games and entertainment 26.5% to listen to news and podcasts.
The report also points to the particular strengths of each AI assistant: general knowledge from the web for Google, commerce for Amazon and email/contacts/calendar for Microsoft. Plus there’s a chance here for Facebook and Snap to get involved in voice in the home before things get too crowded.
The number of Alexa Skills has shot up from 1,000 in June 2016 to over 7,000 in January 2017 – impressive but the report’s analysis of the number of reviews – only 31% have more than one review – suggests people aren’t using them regularly. We’d be interested to see if Amazon agrees with that assessment. As for topics, it’s all about news, reference, weather and lifestyle Skills for the time being.
The real story here is putting cold, hard numbers on this move to ambient, always-on computing in the home, as well as to a smaller extent via hearables and other wearables. Amazon made it normal and that was the hard part.
Do you have an Echo or a Google Home? What do you use it for day to day? Let us know in the comments?
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