Amazon is laying off workers in its Alexa department in preparation for upgrading Alexa to compete with modern AI-powered chatbots like ChatGPT. The move will impact hundreds of employees in the US, Canada, and India, according to an internal email sent on Friday.
Daniel Bausch, Amazon’s vice president of Alexa and Fire TV, wrote in the email: “As we continue to invent, we’re shifting some of our efforts to better align with our business priorities and what matters most to customers — maximizing resources and efforts focused on generative AI.” He added that these shifts will result in the elimination of several hundred roles.
An Amazon spokesperson confirmed the layoffs and said the company is trying to find new roles for those impacted. The spokesperson also expressed optimism about the future of Alexa and the company’s continued investment in innovation.
Amazon released Alexa in 2014, but a decade later, most people only use it for basic tasks like playing music or checking the weather. OpenAI’s ChatGPT, powered by generative AI, is perceived to be smarter than Alexa and Siri. Earlier in September, Amazon announced plans to upgrade Alexa to bring it closer to ChatGPT’s capabilities.
The upgrades will allow Alexa to be powered by a large language model, optimized for voice and capable of holding longer conversations. This change means users won’t have to say “Alexa” each time they want something done and can give complex requests.
The move to lay off employees in the Alexa division is part of broader cutbacks by Amazon, including 180 jobs from its gaming division and layoffs in its music streaming unit. This comes as Amazon has already laid off over 27,000 employees across the company.