Apple’s HomePod announcement yesterday focused on the upcoming pre-order and shipment dates for the HomePod in the U.S., UK and Australia. It also included an indication that the devices would be in France and Germany in spring 2018. Those are both noteworthy news items, but there was another data point in the announcement worth considering.
Siri, now actively used on over half a billion devices,[emphasis added] has developed a deep knowledge of music and understands your preferences and tastes.
That is not only a substantial number for a mass market consumer product, it is also a bold statement directed at Amazon and Google. The statement, phrased in this manner, is interesting for three reasons.
- It confirms something we know, but often forget. Siri is available on a lot of devices.
- Google recently announced that Google Assistant was available on 400 million devices.
- The previous data point was monthly active users and this refers to actively used devices.
Not a 33% Rise in Siri Users, A Different Metric
There are many media outlets claiming that this represents a dramatic rise in Siri usage since June 2017 when Apple revealed that monthly active Siri users totaled 375 million. Not so fast. Look at the actual language. The previous statement referred to Siri users. This statement refers to Siri devices. Siri is available through Apple Watch, AirPods, MacBook Pros and other Apple products. I use Siri occasionally on three of those, but I only represent a single active user. This statement therefore does not represent a 33% rise in Siri usage over eight months. It might mean there remain only 375 million active Siri users, but they own an average of 1.33 Siri-enabled devices. Regardless, the number is still impressive because it speaks to Siri’s reach and potential for ubiquitous consumer access.
Taking on Google and Amazon
Siri has a long way to go as we say frequently here. For a narrow number of utilities accessible by voice, Siri has become very capable. Apple claims, she is particularly skilled when it comes to music access and navigation. Let’s assume that is true. What Siri lacks is still manifold compared to Alexa and Google Assistant. However, most of the capabilities that represent a gap between these voice assistants and Siri, are infrequently accessed by users today. That context suggests Siri may be capable enough to compete in the short-term and the company has time to to address its shortcomings in the medium-term.
A Notice to Developers
The half billion Siri-accessible devices comment is also a notice to developers. If you build for Siri, you have a large market to address from day one. You don’t have to wait. Consumers use Siri on these devices today. Delight users with your new voice app and success can come quickly. Google Assistant is available on 400 million devices. That is 20% fewer devices based on the announcements. Alexa is accessible through 30-40 million devices. You get the picture. Apple is saying that the other players have some momentum, but we already have the installed base.
Of course, this all assumes that Siri will be opened up and actively encourage a broad set of use cases that will entice developers to get started. We should know more in June at the company’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference. Two things we know: Siri already has a large device footprint irrespective of HomePod and Apple created the most successful model of third-party developers with iOS and the App Store. Will history repeat itself? Voice will not be a repeat of mobile. It is different. However, Apple still has a lot of assets to employ and valuable experience that will come in handy in competing globally for voice assistant users.