Google raised some eyebrows at last year’s CES, when the company all but declared war on Amazon’s Alexa and other rivals.
This year, at CES 2019, Google’s physical presence at the show is three times bigger, and accompanies a similarly impossible-to-escape ad campaign. But most importantly, the company now has some serious bragging rights to back up its CES domination: Google Assistant is now on 1 billion devices, according to the company.
That number, which includes smartphones, Google Home speakers, and other gadgets equipped with the assistant, is up from 500 million devices last May.
On paper, 1 billion devices looks like a huge win for the search giant, which has been racing to catch up to Amazon’s Alexa over the last two years. Amazon, by comparison, just revealed that more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices have been sold.
However, it’s important to note that a not-insignificant chunk of those 1 billion devices includes Android smartphones that come with Google Assistant pre-installed. But even so, Google’s two-year-old assistant would appear to have some impressive momentum on its side. Its daily and monthly active user base has grown four times since this point last year, according to Google.
And Google has been quickly diversifying the amount of gadgets that are compatible with its assistant, even if it has yet to break out its non-smartphone numbers. And we’re likely to see a bunch of new Google-enabled products at CES this year.
— Sasha Lekach (@sashajol) January 6, 2019
So between that and “Hey Google” once again being plastered all around Las Vegas, you’d be forgiven for wondering if this is the year Google can declare victory over Alexa.
But it takes more than a splashy ad campaign to dominate an industry. walk the CES show floor this year, and chances are you’ll see nearly as many Alexa-compatible appliances as you will Google Assistant. It may sound small compared to 1 billion, but 100 million devices is also a significant feat, especially when you consider that those are primarily non-smartphone gadgets.
And, as easy as it is to get caught up in the horse race between the two companies, vanity metrics aren’t necessarily as important as companies would have you believe, says Carolina Milanesi, a consumer tech analyst at Creative Strategies.
“I don’t think it matters as much as it did in the beginning when it was more trying to prove a point that this was not just a fad,” she says.
“I think a lot of people still look at how many skills Alexa has versus Google Assistant and I think that’s a bit of a shortsighted way of looking at it.”
What will matter more going forward, she says, is which company is able to expand outside of North America. At least on that front, Google is the clear winner, with support for 30 languages in 80 countries, while Alexa currently supports just five languages.
But even with that advantage, Google is still clearly on a mission to win hearts and minds at CES and beyond. Your move, Amazon.