Move over smartphones. The battle now raging between the big technology companies for consumer cash is focused on the voice-controlled smart speaker.
Having already conquered the pocket with the ubiquitous smartphone, big tech has been struggling to come up with the next must-have gadget that will open up a potentially lucrative new market – the home.
A pilot light was lit when Amazon’s Echo launched in 2014 and became a sleeper hit. Now the voice controlled smart speaker is rapidly becoming the next big thing, capable of answering questions, setting timers, playing music, controlling other devices about the home, or even potentially selling products.
The last 12 months have been explosive for smart speakers, which have surged into the mass market for two reasons. Firstly, smart speakers have become the central control hubs of the smart home ecosystem,” said Ben Stanton, an analyst for Canalys. “Secondly, and most importantly, the price of smart speakers has fallen drastically.”
In the first nine months of 2017, 17.1m smart speakers shipped worldwide, according to Canalys’s data, but a further 16.1m were shipped in the last quarter of the year driven by Christmas present sales.
The fierce competition between market-leader Amazon and Google with its Home devices resulted in the price of smart speakers being slashed from £50 to as little as £30, which some put at cost or below for the manufacture of the devices, making them loss-leaders.