Future Belongs to Smart Speakers: Sony, Panasonic, Etc. Out To Challenge Amazon And Google’s Dominance

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The IFA consumer electronic show in Berlin is now in full swing, with the highlight of the exhibition thus far being the growing popularity of smart home speakers. After Amazon and Google pioneered this emerging technology, companies like Sony, Panasonic, Harman Kardon, Onkyo, and others are coming up with smart speaker devices of their own.

Smart speakers are one of the most promising technologies in the consumer electronics industry today. The trailblazing success of the Amazon Echo, as well as increasing user adoption of Virtual Digital Assistants (VDAs) has proven that there is an expanding market for smart speakers. A while back we published a detailed analysis on the state of the VDA/smart speaker market, which clearly outlined the immense potential of the industry. However, thus far there have been only two major players pulling the strings – Amazon and Google. Amazon is the clear leaders at this point in time with a 71% market share, while Google maintains a respectable 24%. Due to the lack of competition, Amazon is expected to ship over 10 million Echo speakers in 2017.

Now, we can expect a significant change to the status quo with more and more companies throwing their hats into the ring as well. All these companies offer something else to customers; Sony’s LF-S50G speaker is powered by Google Assistant and promises much superior sound quality than anything else in the market right now, albeit at a higher price-tag. Panasonic’s device offers the advantage of flexibility, even allowing stereo configurations by daisy chaining multiple speakers. Harman Kardon’s Allure is a high-end smart speaker, targeting the audiophile consumer base. This is only scratching the surface, as companies like Onkyo, JBL etc are also working on smart speakers of their own.

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Now, consumers will have more choice than ever before, and will not be restricted to just Amazon or Google’s offerings. Nevertheless, despite the impending release of a suite of smart speakers, most are dependent on either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. However, even this is about to change in the near future. It has been widely reported that Apple will be coming out with a smart speaker of their own very soon. Dubbed as the Apple “HomePod”, it will be powered by Siri instead. Samsung is another player investing heavily in this space, with reports of a Bixby powered smart speaker being confirmed. Last but not least, Microsoft is also expected to come out with more Cortana powered smart speakers.

It would seem like that the smart speaker market is truly about to explode. If early estimates are anything to go by, it might just usher in the next tech revolution.

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