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Digital Assistant Forecast for 2021 Exceeds World Population

May 19, 2017 By Molly White in

Uptake and use of digital assistants is rising fast. The installed base of native digital assistants will reach 7.5 billion active devices come 2021, according to a digital assistant forecast from Ovum Research. That exceeds the number of people in the world.


Google Assistant will dominate the voice-enabled, AI-driven digital assistant market, gaining a 23.3 percent market share over the forecast period.


Following right behind Google Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby will earn a 14.5 percent share of the global market for digital assistants. Apple’s Siri will place third, with a 13.1 percent market share, with Amazon’s Alexa (3.9%) and Microsoft’s Cortana (2.3%) rounding out the top five, according to Ovum’s “Digital Assistant and Voice AI-Capable Device Forecast: 2016-2021.”


Digital Assistant Forecast Highlights


North America is home to the largest number of active Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant devices by far, and while uptake and usage will continue to exhibit strong growth regionally, much of the anticipated growth will occur outside North America. Over 95 percent of Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant’s user bases resided in North America as of 2016. That compares to just 24 percent for Apple’s Siri, however, according to Ovum.


Looking ahead, the market research provider expects 47.6 percent of all active voice, AI-capable devices will be found in Asia and Oceania, where the installed base will reach 1.2 billion devices by 2021.


In addition, digital assistants manufactured by Chinese vendors will give those of market leaders, such as Apple’s Siri and Samsung’s Bixby, a run for their money in terms of performance. As of 2016, Chinese AI-capable digital assistants already accounted for nearly 43 million devices, with Baidu and iFlytek leading the charge. 


In terms of devices that incorporate digital assistants, smartphones and tablets will be clear leaders. There were 3.5 billion active smartphones and tablets equipped with digital assistants globally in 2016. Most make use of Google Now and Apple Siri, according to Ovum.


Numerous, myriad other opportunities to apply AI in conjunction with other devices will, and already are emerging, however. That, in turn, opens up new business opportunities for existing and new competitors. One big one is the smart home device market. Ovum also foresees “exponential uptake” of voice-controlled AI in wearable tech and connected TV devices, the global installed base for which, when combined with smart home devices, will increase to total 1.63 billion active devices in 2021,  a rise of 1,000 percent from 2016, Ovum says.


Ovum notes that the prospective market for voice and AI-enabled smart TVs and associated devices – set-top boxes and streaming media players) is much larger than that for AI-capable speakers, which have garnered much attention of late.


Most AI capabilities will be embedded in the network, not in devices, the Ovum report points out. That being the case, implementations led by “native” vendors will be key in order for organizations to gather the personal and contextual data AI software algorithms require to do their thing. Ovum points to newly launched devices from Google and Samsung as examples. 

Commenting on its latest digital assistant market research report, author Ronan de Renesse, practice leader for Ovum’s Consumer Technology group, said in a press release: “Ultimately, a digital assistant is just another user interface. It will only be as good as the ecosystem of devices and services that it is compatible with. Partnerships between tech giants and local service providers will therefore be key differentiators.


“There is a disconnect between the ‘know-it-all, do-it-all’ approach that current digital assistants are aiming toward and the highly personalized virtual assistance experience that consumers have dreams/nightmares about. Whoever can bring personal consumer data in a secure, non-creepy way to digital assistance will be able to bridge that gap and capture most of the opportunity.”


In recent, related market research Parks Associates highlights that uptake of voice and AI-enabled digital assistant software is rising faster than had been the case for new consumer electronics devices generally. Penetration of voice assistants rose from 5 percent of U.S. broadband households in 4Q 2015 to 12 percent in 4Q 2016, according to Parks.


Furthermore, fast growing consumer uptake and use of digital smart home voice assistants, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, is fueling a rush to app development and market introductions on the part of vendors, Parks reports.