Having had a chance to look at hundreds of consumer speaker manufacturers recently, there seems to be an evolution among them:
Stage 1 — Analog speaker. This speaker has an audio jack into it, or RCA cables, and that’s all it does. Maybe there’s volume control and a power button.
Stage 2 — Radio/Cassette/CD Player/Alarm clock. The speaker maker has added music control — AM/FM and wow — maybe shortwave. Maybe there’s also a CD player or a cassette player integrated into it.
Stage 3 — Bluetooth Speaker. You can now stream music from your Bluetooth enabled device. This is like an audio jack but no wires and you can control the music from the system.
Stage 4 — WiFi Speaker. Now you can stream music from the Internet. Maybe even play in synch with other WiFi speakers. AirPlay, Google Cast, and AllPlay-enabled speakers fall into this category.
Stage 5 — Push-to-talk voice control. These are Internet-connected speakers with mics that have a physical button that when pressed allows the user to talk within arms’ reach to the device. Command is processed in cloud, music is streamed. Echo Tap falls into this category.
Stage 6 — Full far field voice control. These speakers allow for wake up words to be spoken at a distance and for the music to be interrupted mid-stream.
A vast majority of manufacturers are stuck at Stage 3. A large minority is working on Stage 4. However, we’re started to see a break into Stage 5 and a few attempts at Stage 6. We’ll likely see most at Stage 4 or beyond in the next two years.