Alexa is making is making its voice heard across the US as Amazon’s Echo looks set to account for more than 70% of the voice-enabled speaker market this year, way ahead of Google Home’s (24%) and raft of niche players. And while eMarketer expects Amazon’s market share to fall slightly as Google gets more traction, the online retail giant will remain the dominant player for the foreseeable future.
Amazon is playing its cards close to its chest and won’t disclose Echo sales metrics but it has said publicly that it has at times struggled to keep the speakers in stock. RBC Capital Markets reckons device sales and additional revenue from users shopping via Alexa could generate as much as $10 billion for Amazon by 2020.
US consumers have certainly taken to voice control devices more quickly than expected.
“[They] are becoming increasingly comfortable with the technology, which is driving engagement,” says Martín Utreras, vice president of forecasting at eMarketer. “As prices decrease and functionality increases, consumers are finding more reasons to adopt these devices.
Amazon announced last week that its plans to triple its UK R&D team working in Cambridge Alexa, Echo and Prime Air delivery drones and is looking to hire experts in mathematical modelling, speech science, machine learning and what it terms ‘knowledge engineering’. The company is launching a new 60,000 sq ft hub in the city with space for 550 staff by the year-end.
And Amazon recently opened up its Alexa ‘skills’ to third parties to enable them offer capabilities allowing users to verbally interact with devices, with Premier League Arsenal coming onboard early.
Google last week announced a UK partnership with Raspberry Pi to develop voice-activated services via the Artificial Intelligence Yourself initiative.