We’re giving up on Alexa – and Amazon is too

It’s no wonder, then, that we have a love-hate relationship with voice assistants like Alexa and the internet-connected smart speakers through which you communicate. The initial idea sounds good, but then the practicality… In fact, according to internal Amazon data seen by Bloomberg, just over half of Amazon’s Echo Dot Alexa device owners use it every week. Even worse, up to a quarter of new Alexa users give up their devices after just two weeks.

Now, it turns out, maybe Amazon is giving up on Alexa a little bit, too. Or at least shrink the divide behind it, which seemed bloated as Silicon Valley is going through its biggest decline since the dotcom crash of 2000. After two decades of explosive growth flogging, the tech giants are laying off workers (about 130,000 so far), slashing budgets and halting hiring. Temporarily. Amazon is no exception, scrutinizing their operations for fat to cut into.

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And Alexa’s division looks fatter than most, as it was home to a huge roster of employees — in one year, 2019, it doubled its workforce to 10,000. That’s quite a bit for a department that, according to recent reports, is losing up to $1 billion a month, far more than other business units at Amazon, and for a product that has, according to Amazon’s own analysis, passed a “growth phase” such that sales are slowing. David Limp, the CEO responsible for Alexa, wrote to his staff last week, “It pains me to have to deliver this news because we know we are going to lose talented Amazons.”

It’s a message he wouldn’t have delivered had Alexa lived up to the expectations of its developers, providing a vision through which we can access and interrogate the internet’s torrent of information, while serving as the hub of a smart grid. Appliances in our homes, from lighting to internet-connected refrigerators.

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