2018 has seen an explosion in new devices NOT made by Amazon or Google, but which use those companies’ voice assistants – Alexa and Google Assistant respectively. Some see this as the start of a trend that will ultimately see the big-tech firms ease themselves out of making and selling their own devices, but that’s certainly not happening in the immediate future. Witness CNBC’s report claiming that Amazon will release eight new Alexa-powered devices by the end of 2018.
Its report suggests that the devices include “a microwave oven, an amplifier, a receiver, a subwoofer, and an in-car gadget” – we’re going to stick our neck out not-that-far and assume that at least two of the other three will be updates in the company’s Echo line of speakers – with an event planned later this month to formally unveil the new range. While the microwave is likely to hog the headlines (‘Alexa, please stop cooking before my baked beans splatter all over the place’), a move into amps, receivers and subwoofers poses more questions for companies from Sonos to high-end audio firms – many of whom have been adding voice assistants to their own products.
As we’ve noted in past coverage of the smart-speakers market, it rivals (and perhaps even surpasses) the music industry when it comes to the importance of Q4 to sales, with a now-annual pre-Christmas rush in sales of Echos and Google Homes. We can expect aggressive price promotions and marketing in the final quarter of this year for smart speakers, then, but the CNBC story is a reminder that there’s a much bigger battle going on here between the tech giants: for ubiquity of their voice assistants throughout the home. And, indeed, the car – which remains one of the key listening venues for music.