Amazon plans to add loads of generative artificial intelligence capabilities into Alexa, but will a smarter, more human-sounding assistant be worth paying for?
Dave Limp, the outgoing head of devices and services for Amazon, suggests a subscription will accompany the enhanced service, although offered little details.
When asked by Bloomberg about a potential user fee incurring in the future, Limp said, “Yes, we absolutely think that.”
Amazon hinted as much in last week’s Fall device event, when Limp said that the smarter version of Alexa it showed off would be available to all devices as a “free trial,” suggesting some sort of fee would be required. But asking consumers to pay for Alexa may be a big ask considering consumers generally ask it to turn smart home devices on and off, play music and handle a number of small tasks. For its part, Amazon said the integration of AI will enable a large number of capabilities and change the experience.
“It’s early, but you’re already seeing this happen with other generative AI experiences focused on productivity or with chatbots on the web,” Amazon said in a follow-up note to Cord Cutters News. “They all seem to have found that customers are willing to pay for the service if they find enough value. As we evolve the capabilities, we hope to learn what customers find valuable – that’s why we want to get this first set of capabilities into customers’ hands.”
Amazon declined to comment on whether there would be a price increase after the initial sign-up period ends.
But the company believes the AI upgrades will add enough value to the user experience that customers will be willing to pay to continue using their Alexas. Instead of Alexa giving updates on the weather, setting timers and alarms, or playing music on command, it will add AI chatbot features that could help users write an email from a conversation they have with the device.
Separately, Amazon announced a $4 billion investment and minority ownership in Anthropic, a company that designs and builds large language models. The deal is a significant indicator that Alexa’s upgrades won’t stop with sending emails.
For now, Amazon said the current version of Alexa will remain free. However, customers still need an Amazon Prime membership to use the device. Limp did not outline a schedule for when fees may come but ventures “it’s not decades away,” according to ARSTechnica, citing Bloomberg. Still, changes are already starting for some users.
Already, Amazon has shut down Alexa Guard and Alexa Guard Plus features, which cost $4.99 a month or $49.99 for a year-long membership. Instead, starting October 31, people can subscribe to Alexa Emergency Assist for $5.99 a month or $59 annually. The price is locked in for a customer’s current billing cycle and an additional year after switching over.