In the western world, it’s easy to think of Google and Apple as the key players in the tech market. On a global scale, however, they have quite a few competitors — particularly the Chinese search engine giant Baidu, which made headlines this week when it became the world’s second-largest vendor of smart speakers.
According to the research firm Canalys, Baidu now owns 17.3 percent of the global market and made 4.5 million shipments in the second quarter of 2019. This represents a staggering year-on-year growth of 3,700%. In spite of this growth and success, Amazon still dominates the smart speaker market.
Baidu’s success isn’t a major cause of concern for Google and Apple. Baidu exclusively serves its home market of China, while Google sells products nearly everywhere except China. What the success represents is the untapped potential in the Chinese market for other vendors, if they can break through China’s often-stringent barriers to entry.
Baidu’s smart speakers operate through the DuerOS platform. After a tepid release on the high-end market, Baidu changed its approach and began to sell less-expensive models like the Xiaodu speaker, which is priced as low as 89 yuan, or around $12. These more affordable speakers are directly responsible for the company’s explosive growth in the Chinese market. Baidu has grown so much that it surpassed Alibaba, the previous leader in the domestic Chinese market.
Google isn’t sitting idly by, however. The Nest Hub recently launched in India, a market with a tremendous amount of potential. If Google can lay claim to that portion of the Asian market, the company may be able to reclaim its spot as the second-largest seller. It will take a notable upset before any company is able to surpass Amazon and the success it has seen with the Echo line of products, however. Amazon is everywhere you turn in today’s world, which gives the retail giant an advantage in terms of brand awareness.
According to the Canalys report, there were 42.9 million shipments of smart speakers made globally across all companies in the first and second quarters of 2019. The smart speaker market is growing like never before as more affordable and accessible options become available.
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