Less than three years into to VPA speaker revolution, we are beginning to see (and buy!) the anticipated products (see Gartner’s “Market Trends: VPA Speakers, 2017″) that natively implement AIs, but are made and sold by third parties. The AI vendors are making their voice platforms available to third parties because, let’s face it, it’s more about proliferating ecosystems than getting rich from hardware margins!
Take Harman, for example: between their brands Harman, Harman/Kardon and JBL, they have all the bases covered:
- Harman/Kardon Invoke is a tall, $200 (ouch!) Cortana speaker, featuring Harman’s own 7-speaker microphone array (a platform called “Sonique” that’s available to third parties).
- JBL’s Link 10, 20, and 30 products implement Google Assistant, based on the Google-certified, 2-mic reference design (reminiscent of the Google Home) with software-tuned beam forming capability.
- The Harman Allure is due out this winter, implementing Alexa – this is a third party OEM design with 4 microphones.
Centralite presented a high-end Alexa speaker design at a closed session at CES earlier this year. Their cool enterprise management feature will greatly enable OEMs to bring solutions to b2b markets.
Less than favorable experiences are to be made at the very low end of the spectrum with the Alexa-based Jam Voice device that is designed to undercut the Echo Dot (at a discounted price tag of $25). Downside is that its WiFi capabilities are so limited that you’re likely to send it back (like I did) without even installing it.
I figure that by the end of 2017, close to 12 million VPA speakers will have sold (see: “Forecast Snapshot – VPA Enabled Wireless Speakers 2017-2021“) with practically all made by Amazon and Google. By year end 2018, though, the total unit sales will more than double, and a hefty chunk (of about 5 million units) will be made by third parties like Harman.
Lenovo’s Smart Home Assistant started with great hopes at CES 2017 but has been a no-show in connected homes. Wonder what happened there. Alexa wouldn’t tell me…
I fully expect Santa to drop an Apple Homepod under my x-mas tree this year, since I took out a second mortgage to finance its hefty $350 price tag. My hopes are not high, though, about Apple making this available to third party OEMs.
Hey, and did I mention that Harman was bought out by Samsung Electronics? Well, Samsung has Bixby. Just sayin’ …
So, watch out for even more proliferation of your favorite VPA in third party devices in connected home, enterprise, and in your car (check out Garmin Speak!). We may only be three years into the VPA speaker revolution, but we’ve only barely witnessed the beginning …
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