A Chinese tech giant has inserted itself into what’s largely been a two-man competition in the smart speaker category up to this point between Amazon and Google.
Amazon’s place as the leading shipper with its line of Alexa-powered speakers remains unmatched. But a new report from tracking firm Canalys reveals a surprising finding — that Baidu, which only serves Chinese consumers, actually shipped more smart speakers and related display devices in the second quarter than Google, bumping Google down to third place globally.
Unfortunately for Google, this comes as the smart speaker category actually expanded during the quarter, growing 55.4% to now include 26.1 million units. Likewise, sales of this product in China are red-hot right now, with the Canalys data showing that the country doubled its smart speaker shipments during the quarter to 12.6 million units, more than double the US market’s shipments of 6.1 million units.
It should be pointed out that on a worldwide basis, the Baidu and Google numbers are interesting — though, as we said, Baidu is exclusively focused on China, meaning both companies don’t overlap and serve completely different markets. However, the drop in US shipments is likely worrisome for this category, given the 2.4% drop. This is why, according to Canalys senior analyst Jason Low, “Amazon and Google are focused on growing their business outside the US.” He adds that Google’s transition to Nest branding while shifting to smart displays “proved to be a challenge, especially as it has begun rolling out its Nest Hub smart display globally.”
From the second quarter of 2018 to the second quarter of this year, Google’s smart speaker shipments fell from 5.4 million to 4.3 million — an annual growth decrease of about 20%.
The Canalys assessment ends with a recommendation that smart speaker vendors should uncover new and more unique use cases for these products while also focusing on a strong voice-first interface for smart displays.