Amazon may be still be the frontrunner in the emerging virtual assistant marketplace, but Alphabet’s Google says it’s making headway in its bid to become competitive.
During Alphabet’s earnings call Monday, CEO Sundar Pichai said he’s increasingly optimistic about the potential for Google Assistant, and the voice-activated Google Home speaker that it powers.
“People are no longer only using a keyboard, mouse, and multi-touch, but are also using emerging inputs like voice and camera to ask questions and get things done in the real world,” he said. “We are seeing this in the way people interact with the Google Assistant, which is already now available on more than 100 million devices since launching last year, and there is more to come.”
The market for virtual assistants has become hot over the last couple of years. In a report released in May, eMarketer said 35.6 million Americans use a voice-activated assistant device, up 128 percent from the previous year.
In large measure, this trend was jump-started by Amazon’s Echo and Dot, which are powered by the company’s Alexa virtual assistant. According to eMarketer, Amazon’s Echo speaker dominates, with 70.6 percent of users. Google Home, released in November 2016, was number two with 23.8 percent.
And, of course, Apple’s HomePod is coming later this year in the company’s bid to make its Siri-powered virtual assistant relevant in this market.
As for Alphabet, Pichai said the Assistant SDK should bolster the number of devices developers can create that tap into the power of Google Assistant. He noted that there are now more than 70 home automation partners that let users control devices using Assistant on Google Home and Phones — including Honeywell, Logitech, and LG. And he said the company is investing in this area by beefing up the headcount and marketing dollars dedicated to these products.
In addition, Google Home should get a boost as it rolls out to more geographies. Besides the U.S., it’s now available in Canada, Australia, and the U.K. And in early August, it will go on sale in France and Germany.
“We are very focused over the long-term on making sure the Assistant can actually help people get things done in the real world,” Pichai said.