An internal memo from Amazon announced that its Alexa division, responsible for the development of its popular voice-activated assistant, will undergo significant downsizing. Daniel Rausch, Vice President at Amazon overseeing Alexa and the Fire TV streaming franchise, explained that this move is part of a strategic shift, aligning with the company’s business priorities, especially in advancing capabilities driven by generative AI.
Rausch explained, “These shifts are leading us to discontinue some initiatives, which is resulting in several hundred roles being eliminated.” The decision reflects Amazon’s effort to enhance Alexa’s functionalities beyond its current limitations, where competitors such as ChatGPT have demonstrated more versatile conversational tools powered by generative AI.
While Alexa commands millions of Echo smart speakers and other devices in homes, Amazon has faced challenges in expanding its applications beyond basic tasks like checking the weather or playing music. This move underscores the urgency within Amazon to bolster Alexa’s capabilities and keep pace with evolving consumer expectations.
This downsizing marks a notable departure for Amazon, which historically avoided large-scale job cuts. However, the company initiated its most extensive layoffs about a year ago, eliminating 27,000 corporate positions due to an over-hiring spree during the pandemic. In March, another 9,000 layoffs were announced, primarily impacting the cloud services division, human resources, advertising, and the Twitch livestreaming service.
In addition to the Alexa division, recent cost-cutting measures have seen job cuts in Amazon’s music and video game units, along with the closure of its physical clothing stores. Rausch indicated that the affected employees in the US and Canada would be notified on Friday, while those in India can expect updates next week. Cuts in other countries may follow varying timelines to accommodate consultations with employee groups and other considerations.