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Apple HomePod Delay Highlights Resiliency of Amazon Echo and Google Home Against Market Entrants

by Werner Goertz  |  November 18, 2017  |  1 Comment

I must admit: when I started our Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA) Speaker forecast snapshot (see: Forecast Snapshot: VPA-Enabled Wireless Speakers, Worldwide, 2016-2021), the assumptions were that Amazon’s Echo products were first to establish the market, but over time two challenges would happen:

  • commodity vendors would adopt VPAs into their cost-reduced / white labeled designs and compete on price.
  • other providers of VPAs, most notably Apple with Siri, would compete for market share.

Today’s news of Apple’s postponement of the anticipated HomePod shipping date shows that it’s not that easy:

  • So I bought this device called JAM Voice Speaker to check out what a $30 Echo Dot-knockoff would look and sound like. Turns out it doesn’t support my 5GHz WiFi network, and even when hooking up to a 2.4GHz port, I couldn’t get the darn thing connected. I ended up returning it, figuring that two hours of futile setup is worth more than $20 price delta.
  • Lenovo’s Home Device hit CES 2017 with fanfare: nice design, Alexa-enabled, but… you know… not from Amazon. Almost a year later, I see next to zero market impact. Is it even shipping?
  • And now: Apple HomePod – quasi-announced earlier this year as a premium audio (btw-what does that actually mean? Is that quantifiable or are we assuming that because it’s Apple it’s got to be premium-something?) – is pulling out of the race for my x-mas budget. Maybe being 2 years late to the game and charging 2x of comparable products can’t be compensated, not even by the Apple brand experience.

Google Home came later than Amazon Echos, but by sheer presence in bricks&mortar channels (go to any Best Buy and see what I mean!), it captured at least some measurable share. Plus, by chromecasting audio/video content, and managing smart home services, Google Home is now a serious player (still need to verify the claims Google is making of the Home Max!).

There’s something to be said for the resiliency of Amazon Echo and Google Home. Both product lines feature great devices. The multi-modal experiences of Echo Show and Echo Spot (see: Market Trends: VPA Speakers, Worldwide, 2017) are raising the bar even further. Not to mention the barriers created by ecosystem partners (Amazon has over 25,000 skills applications by now).

Samsung is smart by not going head-on with Alexa and Google Assistnat and declaring Bixby a “personal agent”, primarily managing the features of the devices it’s embedded in (i.e. Galaxy phones), otherwise it would be hard to challenge the incumbents!

Bottom line:

  • it’s hard to challenge the incumbents Amazon and Google in the VPA Speaker space.
  • if you’re an ecosystem player, your biggest bang for your R&D spend is around Alexa and Google Assistant skills.
  • jury is still out on devices that natively implement VPAs (e.g. GE’s “C by GE LED Lamp”) so watch upcoming Gartner research coverage for developments in that area.

Category: 

Werner Goertz
Research Director
1 years at Gartner
21 years IT Industry

Werner Goertz is a Research Director within Gartner's Personal Technnologies team, where he covers personal devices (smartphones, PCs/Ultrabooks, tablets/ultramobiles and wearables) and IoT. A special emphasis of his research lies in the Human Machine Interface (HMI) and multimodal I/O technologies: voice/speech processing and recognition, facial recognition and eye tracking, biometrics and motion/gesture control. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Apple HomePod Delay Highlights Resiliency of Amazon Echo and Google Home Against Market Entrants


  1. Jack Smith says:

    Purchased the Echo in late 2014 when it first came out. We now have several Google Homes.

    The two are often compared but they are actually very different. The Echo requires rigid language to get it to do things. Something close to commands with some variance. The Google Home you just talk to it naturally for most things.

    I was super motivated to memorize the Echo commands when we purchased and used it. But it remained “my toy” my family’s language.

    As I type this I can hear my daughter in the kitchen listening to music on the Google Home which is where the Echo also resides.

    In the end there is only two mobile platforms, Android (Google) and iOS (Apple). Ultimately we will have one assistant and not different ones on our phones and then in our home. So think Apple delay is going to help Google a lot more than Amazon, IMO.

    A perfect example is driving home last night needing a very quick turn around with my family to leave for something that was going to be tight.

    I just say into my phone “hey google broadcast here” and it plays throughout our house on the Google Home speakers and we had a record turn around with them on the front porch ;).



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