Tech giant Amazon is gutting the internal team developing its Alexa home voice assistant, according to recent reports. One former employee calls Alexa a “colossal failure of imagination,” adding “it was a wasted opportunity.”
Business Insider reports that it spoke to over a dozen current and former Amazon employees about Alexa. They painted a picture of a troubled division, where despite Alexa’s previous success as one of Amazon’s fastest-growing initiatives, the company’s hardware division has suffered massive layoffs and mounting losses, signaling its rapid demise.
The company’s failure to replicate its successful device-sale business model, which relied on selling devices at near-wholesale prices and then earning revenue from additional purchases later, is also evident. “Alexa is a colossal failure of imagination,” one former employee told Business Insider. “It was a wasted opportunity.”
Four years after the launch of Amazon’s home assistant, the product was facing major controversy with reports that the devices were sending voice recordings to the wrong people and secretly listening in on conversations. Breitbart News previously published a guide on how to stop your Alexa device from spying on you.
At the same time, the team behind the device began to worry about the quality of user engagements. Amazon had successfully sold millions of the devices and was getting billions of interactions a week, but most of these interactions were trivial commands to play music or ask about the weather, neither of which could be particularly monetized by Amazon.
By 2018, the Alexa division was a money pit, with reports stating that the firm lost around $5 billion because of the device. This year, an employee familiar with the Alexa hardware team said that the firm is set to lose around $10 billion on Alexa and other devices.
By the end of 2019, Amazon had essentially completely stopped hiring people for the Alexa division. While the company did continue to backfill roles, the company didn’t expand the group via new hires. At this time, employee morale also began to take a nosedive.
Now, Amazon has revealed that the Alexa division will be the primary target of upcoming company layoffs, leaving employees to figure out how they’d be affected by the staff departures. Amazon’s senior vice president for devices and services, David Limp, told staff in an email: “It pains me to have to deliver this news as we know we will lose talented Amazonians from the Devices & Services org as a result. I am incredibly proud of the team we have built and to see even one valued team member leave is never an outcome any of us want.”
The ongoing disarray has also had an effect on customers, with support for the devices suffering. Earlier this year, Amazon determined that a voice shortcut that allowed users to ask for the device to list the items on their cart in its mobile app was not working in India and the U.S. The problem went completely unnoticed for over 200 days in India and 35 days in the U.S. before it was fixed.
Read more at Business Insider here.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan