Amazon will eliminate several hundred roles in its Alexa division as part of a broader shift in priorities and a focus on developing new forms of artificial intelligence, according to an internal memo sent to employees Friday morning.
“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.”
Amazon did not provide further details on the initiatives being discontinued.
It’s the latest restructuring to impact the Alexa team. Amazon conducted layoffs in its Devices & Services division last year as part of company-wide cuts, amid reports that the unit was losing as much as $10 billion a year.
The company is under pressure to keep pace in the rapidly advancing field of generative AI. OpenAI’s ChatGPT has been grabbing attention for its advanced natural language conversations, including a mobile feature released by the San Francisco-based company for interacting with ChatGPT via voice and audio.
Amazon in September previewed a generative AI-based Alexa feature called “Let’s Chat” that will allow users to engage in longer conversations with the voice assistant while maintaining the context of the discussion.
Dave Limp, the longtime executive in charge of the Devices & Services division, announced in August that he would be leaving the company. Former Microsoft executive Panos Panay was named his successor in September.
Here’s the full text of the email sent this morning.
From: Daniel Rausch
Subject: An Important Update for our Alexa Team
We’re really encouraged by the progress we’re making with Alexa: customers are interacting with Alexa tens of millions of times every hour and there are more than half a billion Alexa devices in customers’ homes. Our investments in generative AI are also bringing our vision for an even more intuitive, intelligent, and useful Alexa closer than ever before. 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 several hundred roles being eliminated.
Today, we will reach out to colleagues in the U.S. and Canada who are impacted by these role reductions. Notification emails will be sent out shortly, and we expect all notifications in the U.S. and Canada to be completed this morning (Pacific time). We will communicate with impacted colleagues in India next week, and are following local processes in other regions, which may include time for consultation with employee representative bodies, and possibly resulting in longer timelines to communicate.
To those of you impacted by these reductions, please know we did not make this decision lightly. I want to sincerely thank you for all your hard work and dedication to the organization, and to our customers. We are committed to supporting you, and are providing packages that include a separation payment, transitional health insurance benefits, external job placement support, and paid time to conduct your job search.
While this was a hard decision to make, we remain very optimistic about the future of Alexa. I want to reiterate that Alexa remains an incredibly important part of our business. I’m proud of the innovation we’ve driven, and continue to drive. Incorporating a new large language model into a voice-forward, personal AI, has been and continues to be an enormous scientific and engineering challenge. I’m excited for our customers to soon experience the future of Alexa, and to hear their feedback, so that we can continue to invent and evolve the experience for them.
As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or anyone on the leadership team if you have any questions.