Amazon cuts Alexa jobs to focus on generative AI

Amazon is cutting hundreds of jobs in its Alexa voice assistant unit as it shifts resources to focus more on generative artificial intelligence, reports Reuters.

The cuts come as Amazon pulls back in various divisions including music, gaming, and human resources roles.

“We’re shifting some of our efforts to better align with our business priorities, and what we know matters most to customers – which includes maximising our resources and efforts focused on generative AI,” Daniel Rausch, vice president of Alexa and Fire TV, said in the email seen by Reuters reporters.

“These shifts are leading us to discontinue some initiatives.”

Earlier this year, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said the company was surprised by the rapid growth in generative AI, noting it is already a significant business for AWS.

When asked about how soon AWS would see revenue from GenAI, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said, “Companies are still in the relatively early stages.”

“We have so many companies who are doing all sorts of prototypes. And it’s really accelerated very rapidly.”

Customers are still figuring out what to run at large-scale production, he said. For some customers, they are finding that after training models, testing them and plugging them into applications, the end result can be more expensive than anticipated and come with using large models and large sizes in an application can have high latency in answer-generation.

This phenomenon has been an opportunity for Amazon’s Bedrock fully managed service for foundation models, he said.

Customers have also wrestled with making sure GenAI produces accurate results, safe ones and the desired customer experience, he said.

“It’s hard,” he said. “There’s a certain number of customers who have very deep AI expert practitioners, but most companies don’t.”

AWS views the AI opportunity in three layers, with AWS competing in all three. The lowest is the compute to train LLMs and produce inferences and predictions. The middle layer is LLMs-as-a-service. And the top layer is the applications on top of the LLM, Jassy continued.

Amazon has been pulling back in various divisions, including in its music and gaming divisions and some human resources roles.

While most of the jobs affected were in the devices division, a few were working on Alexa-related products in a different unit, a spokeswoman reported by Reuters said.

Many companies are shifting resources to generative AI, which can create software code and lengthy text responses from short prompts.

In March this year, Amazon had already laid off 9,000 employees.

“I’m writing to share that we intend to eliminate about 9,000 more positions in the next few weeks – mostly in AWS, PXT, Advertising, and Twitch”, said Jassy at the time.

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