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Amazon announces massive lay off in its Alexa voice assistant unit

On Friday (Nov 17), Amazon announced significant layoffs in its Alexa voice assistant unit, citing a “shift” in business priorities with a heightened focus on generative artificial intelligence (AI). The job cuts will impact “several hundred” employees within Amazon’s Alexa division, and the exact number of affected employees remains undisclosed.


The layoffs are part of a strategic realignment to better align with business priorities and customer preferences, emphasizing generative AI efforts, according to Daniel Rausch, Vice President of Alexa and Fire TV. The company mentioned discontinuing certain initiatives as a result of these shifts.


This move comes amid broader restructuring efforts within Amazon, with recent pullbacks observed in various divisions, including music, gaming, and some human resources roles. Although the majority of affected jobs were in the devices division, a few were related to Alexa products in a different unit, according to a spokesperson.


The transition of resources to generative AI, capable of generating software code and extensive text responses based on short prompts, raises questions about potential job threats. Several companies have been redirecting resources to this emerging field.


In September, Reuters reported morale concerns within Amazon’s devices division, citing worries about a perceived weak product pipeline. Critics, particularly those familiar with the issue, highlighted the aging Alexa voice assistant, which, after nearly a decade, seemed to lag behind the advancements in generative AI.


Amazon responded to these concerns by stating that a few anecdotes do not accurately depict the reality of an organization as large and diverse as Devices and Services. The company emphasized its support for its products. While Amazon acknowledged that its services business and devices are not profitable, specific financial figures were not disclosed. Alexa, created by Amazon, is a voice assistant utilized for playing music, conducting searches, setting timers, and serving as a home automation hub.


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