Sales of voice-activated wireless speakers are set to surge this holiday season as a raft of devices from established and new competitors hit the market, a research firm predicted Thursday.
Fourth-quarter sales of smart speakers could reach nearly 12 million units worldwide, bringing the full-year sales total to 24 million units, Strategy Analytics said in a news release.
Amazon.com (AMZN) is seen as the clear winner, with an estimated 68% of smart speakers sold this year expected to run on its Alexa technology. Alphabet (GOOGL)-owned Google will come in second, with just over 20% of units sold running its Google Assistant, the research firm forecast.
“Consumers who are looking to buy a smart speaker this coming holiday season will have a wide range of form factors, prices and feature sets to choose from,” Strategy Analytics analyst David Watkins said. “Segmentation will inevitably occur along traditional brand loyalty lines and those looking for the best possible audio experience.”
With smart speakers, people can play music and check news, weather and sports by using their voice. Smart speakers also can be connected to smart home appliances such as lighting, thermostats and home security systems, so they can be controlled with spoken commands.
The smart speaker market is being driven today by tech giants like Amazon, Google and Baidu (BIDU) selling first-party hardware. But Strategy Analytics believes they will pull back from hardware in the years ahead to focus on licensing their voice-response personal assistant programs to third parties.
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Home-audio company Sonos on Wednesday announced its Sonos One speaker, which comes with Amazon’s voice-activated assistant Alexa. It also will support Google Assistant in 2018, making it the first smart speaker to support different voice-response personal assistant programs. Sonos One will be available starting Oct. 24 for $199.
Samsung plans to start selling its Harman Kardon Invoke smart speaker with Microsoft‘s (MSFT) Cortana personal assistant program on Oct. 22 for $199.95, according to media reports.
This week, Sony (SNE) began selling a smart speaker with Google Assistant built in for $199.99.
Apple (AAPL) plans to start selling its premium HomePod smart speaker with its Siri personal assistant starting in December for $349.
Today, 10% of U.S. homes with broadband internet service have smart speakers, compared with 3% a year ago, NPD Group said in a report last week.