Amazon Echo still dominates as Google and Microsoft play catchup

Amazon's headstart in the smart home assistant race may be hard for its rivals to deal with.

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The Amazon Echo Show comes with a new video calling feature.

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Amazon will remain the dominant player in the home virtual assistant market for some time, according to industry research.

Around 36 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month this year, with Amazon's Echo smart speaker accounting for over 70 percent of usage. Google Home is likely to grab a quarter of the market, leaving just a few crumbs for other companies such as Lenovo, LG, Harmon Kardon, and Mattel.

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According to eMarketer, which carried out the research, Amazon's market share will "fall slightly" in the coming years, as Google's share grows. However the researchers forecast that Amazon "will remain the dominant player in the category for the foreseeable future".

Devices like Amazon's Echo are part of a bigger battle between tech companies for control of the smart home and more. Smart assistants are being built into everything from TVs and speakers to doors and cars: companies that can create the most attractive products and build the widest set of alliances are likely to be able to lock more consumers into their services.

Martín Utreras, vice president of forecasting at eMarketer, said that while the use of such devices is still niche, as prices decrease and functionality increases, consumers are finding more reasons to adopt them.

The broader category of virtual assistants -- including Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, Google Now, and Microsoft's Cortana -- is also seeing growth. According to the researchers, 60.5 million Americans -- around a quarter of smartphone users -- will use Siri, Cortana, or another virtual assistant at least once a month.

The heaviest users of such assistants are people between the ages of 25 and 34: "Older millennials are the core users of virtual assistants, mainly due to their demand for functionality over entertainment," Utreras said.

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