Alexa Everywhere

And what that might mean for Apple’s HomePod

My post a couple days ago
about the opportunity for Amazon Echo devices in hotels was actually meant to be a preamble for this post, which I started writing a couple weeks back after stumbling upon this crazy stat while
reading The Economist

:

“Having sold 75% of all smartspeakers, Amazon is now the world’s biggest speaker brand.”

At first glance
, this is sort of shocking. But then, when you pause to actually think about it, it’s not. How often do you buy speakers? Maybe once a decade? Maybe if you move and/or redo your home entertainment setup? Amazon (and to a lesser extent, Google, Microsoft, and soon Apple) have given us all a reason to buy speakers again. And not just one — a number of them, to put all over our homes, offices, etc.¹

Anyway, that was the jumping off point for a post, then Amazon put out their annual press release
this week touting their holiday sales numbers. While Amazon famously (infamously?) doesn’t give absolute numbers
, there’s no denying that even the relative numbers must be impressive. And the most impressive of these numbers are all about Alexa.

The Echo Dot was the number one selling device across all of Amazon during the holiday shopping season. (The Fire TV stick with the Alexa-enabled remote was the second-most popular product.) Again, no absolute sales numbers beyond “tens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices” — more than we usually get
, by the way — but no matter: tens of millions is impressive enough
.

I’ve been thinking about this recently not just in the context of putting Echoes in hotels, but also relative to Apple. As we’re all well aware, Apple had to delay
their foray into the space, the HomePod, into 2018. But not only did they miss the all-important holiday shopping season, I’m increasingly thinking that they may have missed the boat.

Believe me, I know how dangerous this line of thinking is with regard to Apple. Apple is almost never the first-mover in a market. Instead, they prefer to sit back and let markets mature enough to then swoop in with their effort, which more often than not is the best effort (this is both subjective in terms of my own taste, and often objective in terms of sales). But again, I increasingly don’t believe
that this will be the case with their smart speaker.

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