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Asia Minute: China’s Growing Smart Speaker Influence

John Tekeridis

If you listen to some of your news or music by way of a smart speaker, you’re not alone. In fact, smart speakers are one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. consumer electronics market. And sales are growing even faster in China.

More than half of the smart speakers sold in the world are now sold in China.

That word comes from a technology marketing and analysis firm called Canalys.

The company says that China started to overtake the United States as a market for smart speakers in the first quarter of this year. And as the Chinese market has become more important, it’s had a growing impact on Chinese technology firms.

Amazon still leads the smart speaker race. Figures compiled by Canalys show Amazon has more than 25% of the global market in the second quarter of this year — shipping more than 4-million speakers in that quarter.

But a Chinese company has now pushed ahead of Google to take the number two spot.

Baidu has a little more than 17% of the global market, while Google has slipped to just below 17%.

Hot on the heels of Google is another Chinese company – Ali Baba. While the Chinese firm Xiaomi is now number four in the world when it comes to selling smart speakers.

The Financial Times quotes a Baidu executive as saying “the early signs are that when these devices enter people’s homes they become the core of that home.”

One reason for the rapid growth of Chinese companies in this sector is pricing. The FT reports that each of the Chinese manufacturers subsidizes its smart speakers — at least for now willing to sacrifice profitability for market share.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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