When the Roomba was released in 2002 critics called it gimmicky. In the years since, iRobot has sold more than 14 million home robots while almost single-handedly creating a market segment that it now sits atop.
But have we reached peak robot vacuum?
The answer, according to a new report on the cleaning robot market and to iRobot's Q3 earnings, both out this week, is pretty definitive: We have not.
"The cleaning robot market was valued at USD 1.04 Billion in 2014, and is expected to reach USD 2.50 Billion by 2020," according to the new report from ReportLinker. That's just about in line with a Radiant Insights report from July that predicts a USD 2.6 billion cleaning robot market by 2020.
One thing is clear. Robot vacuums are not a fad.
The ReportLinker data is broken into four segments: floor robots (vacuums and scrubbers), pool robots, window robots, and lawn robots. "The floor cleaning robot market is expected to grow at the highest CAGR of 15.8% between 2015 and 2020, followed by the pool market progressing at a CAGR of 14.5% between 2015 and 2020."
Robot lawn mowers have been slower to catch on. Though popular in Europe, low labor costs in the US have dampened the market.
So far, iRobot's flagship product has reigned over the competition. Revenue for the third quarter of 2015 was $143.6 million, compared with $143.5 million for the same quarter one year ago. That's in line with the company's forecast and puts full year revenue expectations at USD 610 to USD 615 million.
But iRobot isn't guaranteed its place on top forever. Continued domination of the floor cleaning space will depend largely on the success of the cloud-connected Roomba 980, a more sophisticated vacuum than previous models that maps rooms as it cleans. With a price tag of nearly USD 900, there's ample opportunity for competitors to start taking big bites out of iRobot's market share.
Robot vacuums from Samsung and Neato have received high marks from reviewers. The Samsung is priced to go head to head with the Roomba 980 and versions of the Neato cost half as much. Dyson's new vac, the 360 Eye, is expected to go on sale in Japan this month, albeit at a hefty USD 1150. And with models like LG's Hom-Bot offering features like voice command, the race for the floor cleaning crown is certainly heating up.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the expected price tag and release date of the Dyson 360. The price is expected to be $1150 and the Dyson will be released in Japan before hitting international markets.