A total of 20.7 million smart speaker systems were shipped in the quarter, with Amazon (4.6 million or 22.1%) leading the way, followed by Google 3.5 million – 16.8%) and Baidu (3.3 million – 16%).
Within China, Baidu was the top-selling brand, Canalys said. Baidu built up from Q4 in 2018, driven by an unprecedented marketing promotion around its smart speakers.
The company made an exclusive sponsorship deal with CCTV, the national TV channel, on its New Year’s Gala on Chinese New Year’s Eve, which is the biggest entertainment show in terms of viewer numbers in China.
“The lightning fast development in China is largely driven by vendors pouring in large amount of capital to achieve dominant share quickly," said Nicole Peng, vice-president of Mobility at Canalys.
"This strategy is favoured by Internet service providers like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent who are used to spending billions on traffic acquisition and know how to reach critical installed base fast.”
Taking fourth and fifth place in the global ranks were Alibaba (3.2 million – 15.5%) and Xiaomi (3.2 million – 15.4%). Canalys said they had maintained growth after a strong Q4, by promoting gift sales around Chinese New Year.
“Throughout this year we expect Alibaba and Baidu will continue to spend in exchange for more users, given that scaling-up has become their top priority over monetisation," said Peng.
"It is great for mass-market education and fast consumer adoption, as consumers are paying very little for a device and the limitless content and services.”
The report said global vendors including Amazon, Google and others, were focusing on enhancing interactions with smart assistants across different forms of speaker devices, especially with the help of third-party developers.
“Multimodal user interaction is the theme this year. Smart assistants in smart speakers are gaining more capabilities via additional components such as displays, cameras and sensors," said Canalys senior analyst Jason Low.
"However, skills and actions are there to enhance assistants’ abilities to operate and to provide value to users. First-party smart assistant features such as Google Duplex are attention-grabbing. Yet, the smart assistant ecosystem will only be boundless with the help of the extended developer community.”