Digital assistants to reach more than 4 billion devices in 2017

The expansion of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled services from companies including Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung Electronics is expected to drive growth of the AI-powered digital assistants market, which is on track to exceed 4 billion consumer devices by the end of 2017, according to analyst firm IHS Markit.

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The device base will grow to more than 7 billion by 2020 as digital assistants become common across all consumer electronics categories.

The huge smartphone installed base will be the main driver of this growth, with Google Assistant launching across modern Android smartphones, Samsung launching its new Bixby platform and Apple already well established with Siri.

Mobile will account for the largest share of devices, but digital assistants and voice as a user interface (UI) are increasingly important in the home through integration with connected smart speakers, set top boxes, smart TVs and streaming media devices.

Here, Amazon has an early lead through its Echo speaker and Alexa assistant, which has developed an impressive range of skills and device and developer partners. Amazon increasingly will come under pressure from the likes of Google, Samsung, and others that also are looking to develop their presence in the home.

“A broad range of companies are now looking to launch digital assistants or partner with existing services,” said Jack Kent, director at IHS Markit. “The launch of Amazon’s Echo was instrumental in launching the smart speaker category, and in validating the concept of voice-enabled digital assistants providing a unified interface for the smart home,” said Paul Erickson, senior analyst at IHS Markit.

“The smart speaker market will continue to expand as Amazon’s existing success with the Echo line and third party Alexa-enabled hardware will soon be complemented by additional, substantive category growth driven by the Google side of the equation. Third-party hardware momentum is now building behind Google Assistant and set to bear fruit in the form of new mic-equipped products debuting in the fourth quarter of 2017 and at the 2018 CES tradeshow.

“With the category accelerating in competitive velocity and price aggression, smart speakers stand alongside smartphones as a key platform driving digital assistant penetration within the greater ecosystem battle taking place.”

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