How Amazon and Google are smartening up speakers

Nandana James | | Updated on: Oct 29, 2018
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The category is seeing a “healthy traction” with 43% growth in Q2

Everyday tasks have acquired a veneer of meaning in the past one year with the speakers going ‘smart’. Dominated by Amazon and Google, smart speakers have transcended the capabilities of a traditional speaker, with Alexa and Google Assistant helping users with just about anything.

A report by the International Data Corporation (IDC) is a testimony to this. It states that these smart speakers have been seeing a “healthy traction”, marking a 43 per cent sequential growth in the second quarter of 2018

Vendors are building an ecosystem around the smart speakers to provide superior consumer and connected home experience. As this category continues to gain traction, users are getting acquainted with voice assistants and opting for it as a single platform to control all their smart home devices needs, said Navkendar Singh, Associate Research Director, IDC India.

The report pointed out that Amazon, with its Echo range of smart speakers, launched in India on October 31, 2017, leads this category with a 59 per cent market share, closely followed by Google, which launched the Google Home and Home Mini in the domestic market on April 10.

With a voice command, users can perform a multitude of actions including controlling smart devices around their home, playing music on a smart speaker or streaming their favourite show on TV.

They even get things done using third-party providers for activities like step-by-step cooking instruction, setting timers, having the news narrated to them and more, said a spokesperson at Google. It is for these reasons the popularity of smart speakers is soaring. Google Home is powered by the Assistant, enabling one to have a conversation with Google. Parag Gupta, Head of Product and Marketing, Amazon Devices, also attributed this to the convenience of voice provided by its Alexa-powered speakers.

“The interface that people use to interact with machines is changing all the time, and voice is the most natural way to interact amongst ourselves also. Voice has remained a simple, well-understood, much practised mode of interacting and we are just adding machines to it,” he explained. He also pointed that not having to learn any new method of interaction with the machines is another factor underpinning this growing preference.

Adding partners

The IDC report also drew attention to how Google and Amazon are adding partners on board to “make the smart speakers as one of the most sought-after and novel devices for the Indian household.”

According to the Google spokesperson, for almost a year, developers have been using the Actions on Google platform to “build creative solutions” for the Google Assistant in India. They work with third-party developers as well as device and appliance manufacturers to extend the power of the Assistant to new use cases, she added.

As for Amazon, the partners include brands like Uber, Ola, Zomato, Harman Kardon and iBall, who are provided with with tools such as Alexa Skills Kit and Alexa Voice Service. “Last IPL, we even had brands like Kolkata Knight Riders and the Mumbai Indians develop Alexa Skills to interact with their fans and to provide an engaging experience,” Gupta added.

Both Amazon and Google pointed out that their smart speakers are also customised to cater to the needs of the Indian consumers, so that it would be able to take into consideration the context and other peculiarities while interacting with the users.

“Although the initial usage of smart speakers are currently limited to few use cases, as the smart homes market is at a very nascent stage in India, we are seeing signs of it growing beyond entertainment,” Singh said, concluding the IDC report.

Published on October 29, 2018

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