Is Google Home finally catching up on Amazon's Echo smart speaker range in terms of sales?
Amazon's share of global smart speaker shipments fell to 41 percent in the second quarter of this year -- down slightly from the 44 percent share it had in the first quarter, but down significantly from the 76 percent share it had in the second quarter of last year.
In contrast, Google saw its share increase to 28 percent in the second quarter of this year -- up from just 16 percent during the same period last year, according to data from tech analyst Strategy Analytics.
Alibaba finished third, with Apple and JD.com making up the rest of the top five.
Smart speakers have become a key battleground for tech vendors in recent years as vendors fight for control over the emerging and potentially lucrative smart home market (increasingly, these smart speakers are acting as the hub controlling other smart home devices). Amazon got a major head start -- and to a certain extent defined the market -- with its Echo device, which uses the Alexa digital assistant; but Google, and more recently Apple, have been chipping away at that lead. As the use of voice control becomes more widespread, the digital assistants that power these devices are also being found further afield, in cars and in business for example, which makes the battle for the smart home even more significant.
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Amazon and Google together account for 69 percent of smart speaker shipments, but that's down from over 90 percent a year ago. This reflects the growth of competition and also Amazon and Google's inability to break into the fast-growing Chinese market, which is dominated by local powerhouse brands such as Alibaba, JD.com and Baidu, said Strategy Analytics.
Google and Amazon's strategy of pursuing sales volume over margin is making life very difficult for vendors entering the market with products that offer similar features, the analyst firm said, suggesting that the premium end of the market offers opportunity to vendors who can entice consumers with superior build and audio quality.
Buyers of cheaper smart speakers such as the Echo Dot or Google Home Mini who are looking to trade up will be a key target demographic for such vendors.
"Apple has established an early lead in the premium smart speaker market, benefiting from a fiercely loyal fan base and strong momentum behind its Apple Music service. However, we expect the higher end smart speaker market to grow and become much more competitive moving forwards as vendors such as Samsung with its Galaxy Home speaker look to capitalize on the growing acceptance of voice as an established control mechanism," said David Mercer, vice president at Strategy Analytics.
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