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There will be 200 million smart speakers by year’s end, analysts say

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There will be 200 million smart speakers by the end of 2019, analysts say — including a 166% year-over-year growth in the market for smart speakers in mainland China alone. That’s kind of nuts, even in a booming global economy.

Worldwide, the smart speaker installed base will grow about 85% from 114 million units in 2018 to more than 207 million units in 2019, according to a report from analysts at Canalys this week.

The United States is expected to lead the way when it comes to smart speaker adoption. The U.S. accounts for more than 42% of the smart speaker market install base. The U.S. is running at about 46% growth in the smart speaker market, according to Canalys, moving those of us here in the United States from a shade over 60 million units to almost 90 million units in 2019.

The real kicker in the report is the outlook for China, one of the most lucrative markets on the entire globe for technology. Weirdly, global giants like Amazon and Google don’t pay that much attention to the Asian markets, which means brands that are unfamiliar to Western audiences like Alibaba’s Tmall Genie, Xiaomi’s Xiao Ai, and Baidu’s DuerOS, are going to overtake the big manufacturers. Canalys predicts that Tmall will hit nearly 40% of the 2019 smart speaker market in China, followed by a quarter of the market for Xiao Ai and DuerOS and about 12% for everybody else.

“Local vendors are bullish about China’s smart speaker market, and their aim for this year is to keep growing their respective installed bases in the country by shipping more devices into households,” Canalys senior analyst Jason Low said. “Hardware differentiation is becoming increasingly difficult, and consumers have higher expectations of smart speakers and smart assistants. Vendors will need to focus on marketing the next-generation ‘wow factor’ for their respective smart assistants and voice services to change consumers’ perception and drive greater adoption.”

China’s smart speaker installed base is expected to reach nearly 60 million units by the end of this year. That’s a crazy amount of growth, given that the country only had about 23 million units in 2018.

The real driver that smart speaker manufacturers may be concerned with next is just which digital assistant is driving their platform. Amazon’s Alexa has been in the lead for some time, while the worldwide market is expected to reach 8 billion by 2023 after reaching 2.5 billion in 2018, according to Juniper Research. But with Facebook jumping into the digital assistant market just this month and Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant hot on Alexa’s heels, it should be interesting to see which one of the smart speakers comes out on top.

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