Amazon plans to cut several hundred jobs in its Alexa division as it shift its focus to generative artificial intelligence more akin to ChatGPT.
The online retail giant announced the cut to employees through an internal memo, according to GeekWire. The company intends to push even further into making Alexa more helpful than just a simple assistant, as it teased during its fall event.
“As we continue to invent, we’re shifting some of our efforts to better align with our business priorities, and what we know matters most to customers—which includes maximizing our resources and efforts focused on generative AI,” wrote Daniel Rausch, vice president of Alexa and Fire TV, in the memo, obtained by GeekWire. “These shifts are leading us to discontinue some initiatives, which is resulting in several hundred roles being eliminated.”
A spokesperson for Amazon confirmed the cuts with Cord Cutters News.
This marks the latest big layoff for the Devices and Services division, which the Alexa team is part of. The group saw large cuts last year amid a broader shake-up that eliminated 27,000 roles. Earlier this week, Amazon laid off 180 jobs at its Twitch and gaming division, as well as its music streaming division. The retail giant has been continuously reducing costs, which led to it posting a profit of $9.9 billion in the third quarter.
“Our investments in generative AI are bringing our vision for an even more intuitive, intelligent, and useful Alexa closer than ever before,” said a company spokesperson. “As we continue to invent, we’re shifting some of our efforts to better align with our business priorities, and what we know matters most to customers—which includes maximizing our resources and efforts focused on generative AI. These shifts are leading us to discontinue some initiatives, which is resulting in role eliminations.”
Amazon is just the latest company betting big on generative AI after ChatGPT exploded at the beginning of the year and showed the public what it could do, from writing book reports to planning a highly detailed vacation. ChatGPT’s popularity led to Big Tech companies reprioritizing around their own AI systems.
The company showed off its own generative AI version of Alexa in September, which allowed people to have a lengthier, more human-like conversation with the assistant. The company said it would eventually release a free preview of the enhanced Alexa, but didn’t provide a timeline. The “free” language suggests the ultimate service may cost money.
The Devices and Services division is also going through big changes from a leadership perspective. Dave Limp, the longtime head of the division, said he would be leaving the company at the end of the year and taking over Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket company. In his place is Panos Panay, the longtime Microsoft hardware chief who brought the Surface line to prominence.