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Amazon confirms ‘several hundred’ will be let go from Alexa unit

Dive Brief:

  • Amazon on Friday confirmed it will cut “several hundred” positions in its Alexa unit. The company did not disclose the exact number of people impacted, their specific roles within Amazon’s devices business, or which Alexa initiatives were affected.
  • U.S. and Canadian-based Amazon employees affected by the Alexa-related job cuts were notified on Friday. The company plans to notify other employees, including some in India, starting next week.
  • “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,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to Retail Dive.

Dive Insight:

As the company’s priorities change, “these shifts are leading us to discontinue some initiatives, which is resulting in role eliminations,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “We’re grateful to these employees for their contributions, and we’re supporting them in their next steps.” 

Amazon said the number of people affected by the decision represents a relatively small percentage of the total number of people who work in the company’s Amazon Devices business. “While this was a hard decision to make, we remain very optimistic about the future of Alexa. As we move forward, Alexa remains an incredibly important part of our business, and we will continue to invest and innovate to deliver on our vision,” the spokesperson said.

There are more than half a billion Alexa devices in customers’ homes, according to the company. “Our investments in generative AI are bringing our vision for an even more intuitive, intelligent, and useful Alexa closer than ever before.”

During the company’s Q3 earnings call, CEO Andy Jassy said Amazon has expanded Alexa’s technology with new conversational AI capabilities that enable a user to make multiple simultaneous requests in a more natural and conversational way. 

“Every one of our businesses is building generative AI applications to change what’s possible for customers, and we have a lot more to come,” Jassy said during the call, according to a transcript.

This week’s downsizing news follows several rounds of layoffs at Amazon over the last year. 

One of the largest moves was in January, when Amazon confirmed plans to eliminate 18,000 roles in total, mostly in its stores, people, experience, and technology divisions. In March, the company confirmed it planned to lay off an additional 9,000, bringing the total number of positions cut to about 27,000. The company also confirmed Friday that it recently cut about 180 roles from its Amazon Games unit, which focuses on developing games and publishing externally developed titles.

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