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Google Home Tops 2018 First-Quarter Smart Speaker Shipments
The market for smart speakers is thriving, as January–March 2018 global shipments reached 9 million units, more than tripling the 2.9 million shipped in the first quarter of 2017. Additionally, as announced on May 23 by Canalys, for the first time Google Home models have pulled in front of Amazon Echo devices in terms of shipments, moving 3.2 million Google Home units compared with Amazon Echo's 2.5 million.
In their report, Canalys referred to smart speakers as "the world's fastest-growing technology segment" — spotting this trend earlier this year, the Recording Academy announced its own Google Home chatbot just in time for the 60th GRAMMY Awards.
While Google Home and Amazon Echo accounted for more than half the smart speakers shipped in this year's first quarter, the market is being joined by new competitors hoping to hop on its growth potential.
The topline comparison is important because it shows Google's success at playing catch-up in this category, which goes beyond the device itself to the voice assistant AI that figures out what users are saying.
Earlier this month, Google Assistant announced its compatibility with more than 5,000 smart home devices and 40 brands of cars. Apple's Homepod, powered by Siri, is catching up as well but did not make it into third or fourth place because of the burgeoning smart speaker market in China and South Korea. China's 1Q shipments were 1.8 million units with South Korea accounting for 730,000, and these markets feature Asian manufacturers playing catch-up themselves. The leader in China is Alibaba's Tmall Genie and its principal challenger is Xiaomi's Xiao AI device, ranking third and fourth for overall global shipments.
In terms of losing its top position, the Canalys report suggests Amazon might have been at a disadvantage with third-party vendors because the online retailer is perceived as a competing distribution channel.
"Operators and retailers tend to prioritize Google's speakers over those from Amazon, as Amazon is in the tricky position of being a direct competitor," said Canalys Analyst Ben Stanton. "But Amazon is fighting back hard, and the sheer quantity of Alexa Skills and smart home integrations will be tough for any competitor to match."
There is certainly more to this story than meets the eye as practical integrations are key to making voice-navigation fit seamlessly into our everyday lives.