to sack ‘several hundred’ Alexa employees

Amazon has cut more than 27,000 jobs across the company over the past year
A representational image. — Canva
A representational image. — Canva

Amazon has decided to sack employees at its Alexa voice assistant unit as it shifts focus on generative artificial intelligence (AI).

Reuters, citing an email, reported that the cut affects several hundred employees working on Alexa. A spokesperson declined to elaborate on exactly how many were affected.

Daniel Rausch, vice president of Alexa and Fire TV, in an email, said: "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."

It was learnt that Amazon has been pulling back in a variety of divisions this month, 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 said. Many companies are shifting resources to generative AI, which can create software code and lengthy text responses from short prompts.

Alexa is a voice assistant that can be used to set timers, ask search queries, play music, or as a home automation hub.

In September, Reuters reported that morale in the devices division had suffered over concerns about what some viewed as a weak product pipeline. In particular, people familiar with the matter pointed to the Alexa voice assistant, now nearly a decade old, as having failed to keep pace in the age of generative artificial intelligence.

Amazon said at the time that "to suggest that a few anecdotes paint a picture of reality for an organization as large and diverse as Devices and Services is inaccurate," and that it stood by its products.

Amazon has said its devices and services business is not profitable, without providing figures.

Only last month the device unit got a new chief, Panos Panay, who joined the company from Microsoft, replacing David Limp, a 13-year veteran who is leaving later this year to head Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket company. Panay had overseen the development of the Surface tablet.

It should be noted that Amazon has struggled to generate any profits from Alexa, which many people use through Echo speakers or video screens. Most efforts to make money from it have centred on easing purchasing from

The Seattle-based online retailer's voice assistant products compete with offerings from Alphabet and Apple.

Amazon has cut more than 27,000 jobs across the company over the past year, part of a wave of US tech layoffs after the industry hired heavily people during the pandemic.

The latest cuts come even as Amazon reported third-quarter net income that far exceeded analyst estimates and forecast revenue in the year’s final quarter roughly in line with expectations. The fourth quarter is Amazon’s most crucial, as it includes holiday shopping.

In the email, Rausch said he remained optimistic about Alexa.

"Incorporating a new large language model into a voice-forward, personal AI has been and continues to be an enormous scientific and engineering challenge," he wrote, using another term for generative AI.