- The number of Americans who use a voice-activated assistant device like Amazon Echo or Google Home at least once a month will more than double this year to 35.6 million, eMarketer estimates. The market leader will be Amazon with 71% of users while Google will have 24%.
- Meanwhile, the profusion of smartphones means that software-based digital assistants that respond to voice commands are more popular than home-based devices. Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana are the gateway services that familiarize consumers with voice-activated commands. About one-fourth of digital assistant users are between the ages of 25 and 34, while one-third of the millennial generation is an early adopter of the budding technology.
- Microsoft announced Cortana-powered speakers on Monday, according to a press release by the company's partner Harman International.
Amazon is forecast to remain the market leader in voice-activated assistants. While the company isn’t a hardware manufacturer at its core, it has been an early adopter of technologies that have evolved with the digitization of content like e-books, music streaming and on-demand video.
The Amazon Fire tablet, as one example, has been positioned as an infotainment hub and shopping portal for goods that still require physical distribution, like fashion and consumer goods. It didn’t overtake Apple’s iPad, which has a huge community of developers making apps for what is basically an oversized iPhone, but the Fire has held onto its second-place share of the market.
About 60.5 million Americans will use Siri, Cortana or another virtual assistant at least once a month this year, eMarketer estimates. That usage covers 28% of smartphone users, or about one-fifth of the total U.S. population. While voice-activated assistants are still mostly a novelty item, Amazon has an opportunity to put Alexa at the heart of a technological ecosystem that becomes more valuable as other companies develop Alexa-friendly products. Alexa “skills” are being integrated with smart home products like lighting and climate-control systems and even Domino’s pizza delivery.
EMarketer estimates that Amazon will maintain its market leader position even as Google Home grabs greater market share. The key for Amazon will be to provide an insurmountable mix of content and functionality that has a greater value proposition than its competitors.