Will Smart Displays Be Popular? Mycroft Mark II May Offer Insight.

Three days ago, Mycroft, launched a new Kickstarter campaign for the company’s second device, a smart display, with a target goal of reaching $50,000 in pre-orders. The first 100 discounted units that will ship in March were certainly sold out in the first hour according to a company official. Some people have told me those first 100 units were gone in just a few minutes. But, that lot only accounted for $8,900. The Kickstarter today has already accumulated over $117,000 in pre-orders from 248 orders with 29 days left in the campaign. Most of those orders won’t ship until December 2o18.

Is This About Mycroft Popularity, Smart Display Demand, or Both?

Mycroft positions itself as the open source and privacy-based alternative to Amazon Echo and Google Home. It has a strong developer community that no doubt found the new devices attractive and were willing to wait until December for shipment. Data from Edison Research, CIRP and Strategy Analytics among others show that smart speakers are tremendously popular and breaking sales records each quarter. Whether smart displays (i.e. smart speakers with a display) will be as popular remains and open question.

To date, only Amazon has launched smart displays for the U.S. market, Echo Show and Echo Spot, and Baidu has one for Mandarin Chinese speakers called Little Fish. Neither company releases sales figures, but Voicebot estimates that between 1.3 -2.4 million U.S. consumers have either Echo Show or Spot. This looks very similar to the Amazon Echo smart speaker adoption in its first six months of consumer sales that included a holiday shopping season. Baidu was enthusiastic enough about Little Fish adoption in 2017 that it is now bringing out the lower cost and more elegantly designed VSI smart display for 2018. And, four manufacturers announced at CES that they would bring out smart displays in 2018 with Google Assistant onboard. Google and Facebook are both rumored to have smart display products in the pipeline for 2018 as well.

Manufacturers will Push Smart Displays Hard During Holiday 2018

Smart speakers were certainly the hottest selling items in the electronics category during the Q4 2017 holiday shopping season. And, they were likely the top selling items across all categories. Manufacturers are sure to try and transform smart displays into that hot category for 2018. The devices will still have the perceived positioning of “new” and build on the voice assistant momentum.

Many industry insiders are hopeful that smart displays will follow the smart speaker pattern of two million, 8-10 million and then 15-20 million device sales over three consecutive years. The open question is whether consumers will fall in line behind those plans. Demand for Mycroft’s Mark II smart display suggests that there is definitely some demand for these devices. Everyone will be closely watching to see if Mycroft Mark II is an anomaly driven by open source community enthusiasm or a harbinger of how the broader consumer market will react to smart displays.

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