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Audio market evolves with Amazon and Google

Futuresource Consulting has announced the latest results from its worldwide audio equipment tracking service, which states that in 2015, worldwide demand for home audio products grew by 24 per cent to 88.2 million units, whilst trade value remained stable at $9.8 billion. Shipments were slightly higher than forecasts outlined in the previous Dec 2015 report, with wireless speakers witnessing stronger sales in some global markets.

“Audio is growing strongly in all regions as consumers are relying on smartphones for storing and listening to music content. Bluetooth is included in 60-70 per cent of audio devices, including traditional Hi-Fi Systems and A/V Receivers,” commented Rasika D’Souza Market Analyst at Futuresource Consulting. “Our latest audio business report revealed that shipments of Bluetooth speakers without Wi-Fi grew by 72 per cent in 2015. It is very apparent that consumers have both realised and are enjoying the convenience and portability that Bluetooth offers.”

Albeit growing, the multi-room audio category is under performing and not meeting industry expectations, the result of limited retailer support in store and consumer confusion due to the different Wi- Fi enabled ecosystems in existence.

With the potential to solve this issue Google introduced Cast technology to audio hardware in 2015 and support is building from a number of mainstream brands such as LG, Sony, B&O, Philips, Vizio, Raumfeld among others, its goal, to expand the Wi-Fi ecosystem and achieve interoperability across brands. Google is set to double brand support by the end of 2016.

The future for the category continues to evolve as technology giants, such as Amazon and Google push the boundaries further by introducing devices with voice assistance features. The industry expects this to present new opportunities for the audio hardware vendors to explore. Of course, Google is leveraging its strength as a search engine and also tying in with its other services such as Google Play and Google Cast while Amazon will benefit from its strong online retail presence and music subscription service. Futuresource forecast that Amazon shipped c.1 million units in Q4 2015 and is forecast to ship another 2.5 -3 million units in 2016 in the US.

The report also found that in 2015, Harman/JBL held the position of top home audio brand with an 11 per cent unit share, whilst Bose was the leader in terms of revenue with an 18 per cent share. Both brands captured top positions in the home audio market as a result of their strength in the Bluetooth speaker segment.

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