Virtual assistants continue to gain traction worldwide, achieving shipments of nearly 2.2 billion units in 2021, according to a new market tracker report from Futuresource Consulting. That’s an increase of 33% year-on-year, as markets steadily recover from the disruption brought about by the pandemic.
“Last year, we saw a strong sales surge from those product segments that took a big hit during 2020,” says Simon Forrest, Principal Technology Analyst, Futuresource Consulting. “Smartphones and the ever-popular AV product segment led the charge for shipments of CE products with built-in assistants, which was given a boost due to people spending more of their leisure and work time at home.”
“This year, we’re expecting the market to continue its ascendance, though it will progress at a slower pace. The Omicron variant of COVID-19 may continue to suppress markets during the first quarter, while ongoing semiconductor component supply shortages are adding to the challenges. Our retailer contacts are reporting complications in maintaining stock levels of popular products.
“Then there’s Microsoft’s move away from across-the-board voice integration. With Windows 11, most PCs won’t feature a built-in assistant as standard. Instead, Cortana becomes an option in Microsoft’s productivity tools.”
Looking to the vendors, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri continue to battle it out for the top position, accounting for more than 40% of the market between them. While Google is flexing its authority in Android smartphones and the adjacent wearables category, the continuing success of iPhone, iPad, AirPods and MacBook are maintaining Siri’s position as a dominant force.
Meanwhile, Baidu is maintaining a strong position, just a few percentage points behind the two leaders. That’s despite confining its activity to within its local China market, driven by success in smart speakers and smartphones.
“We’re now seeing a marked move towards the ‘multiple’ category, too,” says Forrest. “Those products that support several assistants simultaneously now account for 18% of the market. It’s common to see Alexa and Google Assistant together on a single device, and we’re also seeing Bixby and Google Assistant beginning to cohabit.”
In the regions, Asia Pacific is riding an aggressive growth curve, with Futuresource expecting it to represent 46% of the built-in assistant market by the end of 2021, once all the numbers are in. This is due to the rise in penetration of Chinese language assistants, with Baidu’s DuerOS maintaining the lion’s share in the region, at more than two in every five shipments. Siri and Google now hold 15% and 13% respectively.
Across EMEA and the Americas, Apple Siri and Google Assistant continue to command the top positions, with Google Assistant leading in EMEA and Siri ahead in the Americas.
Despite the hurdles ahead, Futuresource expects voice-enabled product shipments to rise by 8% in 2022, with more than 2.3 billion units shipped during the year. By 2025, the research firm forecasts that 70% of consumer electronics devices will have virtual assistant capability, either built-in or ‘works with’. And across consumer electronics and automotive segments combined, the installed base will exceed 7.7 billion units worldwide by the end of the forecast period.
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