The Chinese technology giant entered the affordable smart speaker market last June when it launched the 249 yuan ($39) Xiaodu, having ditched an earlier high-end smart speaker called Raven-H, which cost around 7 times more. Buoyed by the appeal of its new low-cost device, Baidu became a top 3 smart speaker company in Q1 of this year, ahead of Alibaba and Xiaomi. Now it has overtaken Google for second place — despite the fact that the Xiaodu is only available to buy in China.
According to Canalys, Baidu enjoyed year-on-year (YoY) growth of 3,700% in smart speaker shipments, while Amazon retained the top spot, with 61.1% growth in units shipped. By contrast, Google fell 19.8%, from 5.4 million units in Q2 2018 to 4.3 million in the corresponding period this year.
It’s worth noting that Baidu’s renewed focus on the smart speaker market will have had little impact on Google — Baidu only sells its speakers domestically, while Google has yet to launch its smart speakers in China at all. Indeed, this story is more about Baidu pushing to capitalize on the size of the Chinese market — data from earlier this year showed that China had overtaken the U.S. to become the biggest smart speaker market, claiming more than half of all global shipments in Q1 2019.
Today’s news also comes shortly after Baidu, which is often referred to as China’s Google, dropped out of China’s top 5 most valuable internet companies after having shed $66 billion of capitalization in the past year. But with its DuerOS voice platform now installed on around 400 million smart devices and a host of new own-brand smart devices on the market, Baidu is working to reverse its fortunes.
Amazon versus Google
While Amazon has enjoyed steady growth in smart speaker sales, on the surface Google is seemingly heading in the opposite direction: Canalys’ latest figures show a near-20% drop in YoY smart speaker shipments for Google. But the quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) numbers show that Google’s sales jumped around 25%, from 3.5 million units shipped in Q1 2019 to 4.3 million in Q2.
It’s worth noting that Google has undertaken some internal restructuring to bring greater clarity to its smart home offerings. Last year, its smart home off-shoot Nest was folded into the Google Home hardware division, and earlier this year Nest became the new brand name for Google’s range of smart home products. Google has also delved into smart displays, launching the Home Hub last year, followed by the Nest Hub Max a few months back. In short, there has been some upheaval at Google, which may have had an impact on its recent numbers.
Another notable tidbit to emerge from the latest Canalys report was that both Amazon and Google now claim at least 50% of global shipments to international markets, with Amazon growing its global (non-U.S.) reach from 32% to exactly 50% YoY, while Google flipped its international shipments from 42% to 55%.
According to Canalys senior analyst Jason Low, this was due in part to a slowing of domestic smart speaker sales, which dropped 2.4% over the 12-month period, but the big internet giants are also doubling down on their efforts to grow their respective businesses globally across the board. And Low said that Google, specificially, needs to rethink its product lineup.
“Amazon and Google are focused on growing their business outside the U.S.,” he said. “Google’s transition to the Nest branding while pivoting to smart displays proved to be a challenge, especially as it has begun rolling out its Nest Hub smart display globally. Google urgently requires a revamped non-display smart speaker portfolio to rekindle consumer interest, as well as a robust marketing strategy to build its Nest branding outside of the U.S.”