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Smart speaker market may have declined in the US last quarter


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If you’ve been following the smart-speakers market with interest, you’ll have seen this coming a few months ago: Chinese tech firm Baidu is now selling more of these devices than Google is. Well, that’s what research firm Canalys claims, anyway. But its latest report also points to a potentially-worrying decline in shipments in the US.

Its figures for the second quarter of 2019 suggest that Baidu took a 17.3% share of the 26.1m smart speakers shipped that quarter globally. Those 4.5m shipments were enough to vault it over Google, which Canalys estimates shipped 4.3m of its Home speakers in the quarter, for a 16.7% market share. Amazon remains top dog with 6.6m Echo shipments and a 25.4% market share.

Some stories within this: Baidu’s figures really have rocketed, given Canalys’ estimate that a year ago, it sold just 100k smart speakers in Q2 2018. Also worth discussion: the fact that this research firm estimates that Amazon’s smart-speaker shipments grew by 61.1% year-on-year, but that Google’s fell by 19.8%. One question is whether ‘free’ devices sent out to Spotify subscribers count towards these figures, though.

Here’s something else to think about: Canalys estimates that while shipments of smart speakers in China doubled to 12.6m units last quarter, those in the US actually fell by 2.4% over the same period to 6.1m units. That’s not necessarily a problem for Amazon and Google, who are shipping 50% and 55% of their smart speakers respectively to countries outside the US.

However, given the excitement within the music industry about the potential impact smart speakers can have on our world, it’s a trifle worrying to see claims that the category has stalled already in the world’s biggest music market. Still, this is one research firm’s opinion at this point, and the blip could be a temporary one, with new Echos, Homes and other speakers capable of reinvigorating sales in the US in the final quarter of 2019.

Stuart Dredge

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