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Google Assistant now has 500 million monthly users

It's the first time the search giant has released user figures for its digital helper software.

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The Google Assistant software is on smart speakers, TVs and phones like the Pixel 4. 

Sarah Tew/ CNET
This story is part of CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom floor and the hottest new tech gadgets around.

Google on Tuesday gave us its first glimpse at how many people use Google Assistant, the search giant's digital helper that competes with Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri. The software has 500 million users a month.

The numbers, which mark the first time Google has released user figures, provide a sense of scope for the search giant's digital concierge. The Assistant has about half as many users as a handful of other Google products, including Maps, Drive and Chrome. Google also said the Assistant is available in 90 languages in 30 countries.

Google made the announcement at CES in Las Vegas, where the search giant has again crafted a marketing blitz in Sin City. Last year at CES, the world's biggest tech conference, Google announced that the Assistant was on 1 billion devices, though the vast majority of those devices are Android phones, which come with the software preinstalled. The Android advantage is likely to help its monthly user figure, too -- the more available the software is, the more people have a chance to use it. So it helps that Android is the dominant mobile operating system on the planet: It accounts for almost nine out of every 10 smartphones shipped globally. 

Amazon hasn't announced how many people use Alexa each month. But the e-commerce giant on Monday at CES said Alexa is installed on "hundreds of millions" of devices, up significantly from the 100 million it announced a year ago. While the chasm between Google and Amazon seems large, the stats don't really tell us about how many people actually want the Assistant in their homes, since Google's figures lean so heavily on phones.

While the user figures are a milestone for the Assistant, Google still needs to catch up to Amazon in one important category. When it comes to smart speakers, the most mainstream smart home products, Google has fallen behind. The search giant had slowly been catching up to Amazon in previous years, but Google's growth took a dive in 2019. Google's share dropped from about 30% to 12%, while Amazon has grown from about 32% to 37%, according to Canalys. The big difference was massive gains from the Chinese companies Alibaba and Baidu, which both overtook Google this year. 

For the last few years, Google has used CES to announce some of its biggest Assistant upgrades. Last year, the company announced an interpreter mode for smart displays, which lets two people carry on a conversation speaking different languages. Google brought the feature to phones last month. Also on Tuesday, Google unveiled a feature that allows the Assistant to read articles and blog posts aloud in a natural-sounding voice.

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