The booming smart-speaker market and the services it will help

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More and more devices are gaining the ability to listen and do things on your behalf, with everything from voice-controlled toilets to voice-controlled dishwashers being on display at CES, the annual technology conference that wrapped up last week.

The proliferation of smart speakers reflects consumers’ growing acceptance of using voice commands. More than half those who have a voice assistant like the Amazon Echo or the Google Home use it daily, according to Adobe Analytics, which conducted a recent survey. Just 16% of those people feel uncomfortable dictating commands while others are around, the firm said.

Smart assistants are poised to gain a larger presence in the home this year, as they become capable of taking on new skills. Unit sales of smart speakers alone are expected to jump 60%, to 43.6 million units, in 2018, according to the CTA, which operates CES. That’s after posting 279% growth in 2017.

“The popularity of voice devices is proving to be a first credible challenge to touch as the primary interface for consumer electronics,” said Colin Morris, the director of Adobe Analytics Cloud, in a statement.

People mainly use voice assistants to play music or check the weather, with roughly 60% of Adobe’s survey respondents saying they did each of those things. Interest in cuing up songs via speech commands could provide a boost to Pandora Media Inc.












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, which is trying to regain its footing in the face of stiff streaming competition from Spotify and Apple Inc












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.

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Pandora listening on voice-enabled devices is up 300% year-over-year, CEO Roger Lynch told MarketWatch at CES last week. The company said its platform is available on more than 2,000 consumer-electronics devices.

Apple, which is due to come out with its delayed HomePod speaker later this year, plans to use the device as yet another way to push its ecosystem of services. The company’s subscription music service, Apple Music, will get favored treatment on the HomePod and will be directly accessible via voice commands.

Meanwhile, use of smart speakers to check the weather could bode well for International Business Machines Corp.












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, which acquired the Weather Co., operator of Weather.com, in 2015.

Shopping is another somewhat popular activity on smart speakers, with 22% of survey respondents saying they’ve bought items using voice commands. As the technology behind voice assistants gets better at surfacing relevant results, more shoppers may become comfortable making purchases they can’t see. This will escalate the battle that Amazon.com Inc.












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 and Alphabet Inc.’s












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Google are waging as they seek to promote their preferred shopping platforms on smart devices.



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