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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Alexa to get an AI boost with a new subscription service

Amazon's Alexa is set for a major AI update, and a new subscription service, costing US$5–US$10 per month, will offer enhanced capabilities and features.

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You might be excited that Alexa, 's digital assistant, will receive a significant AI update soon. Sources close to Reuters have revealed that Amazon is planning an extensive upgrade for Alexa, introducing a new two-tier subscription service costing between US$5 and US$10 per month.

Introducing “Remarkable Alexa”

The new and improved Alexa, tentatively named “Remarkable Alexa” by insiders, could launch as early as August 2024. The project, codenamed “Banyan” after the giant ficus tree, is a personal project of CEO Andy Jassy. In an April letter to shareholders, Jassy promised a “more intelligent and capable Alexa.” However, sources caution that the pricing and release date might change as the launch date approaches, depending on the project's progress.

An Amazon spokeswoman told Reuters, “We have already integrated generative AI into different components of Alexa and are working hard on implementation at scale—in the over half-a-billion ambient, Alexa-enabled devices already in homes around the world—to enable even more proactive, personal, and trusted assistance for our customers.” Alexa is used mainly in Amazon and Echo speakers to perform simple tasks like setting timers, controlling smart home devices, reporting the weather, and answering basic questions.

Alexa's financial challenges and competition

Despite its widespread use, Alexa has yet to turn a profit for Amazon since its debut in 2014. The digital assistant market became even more competitive with the release of ChatGPT in 2022, which prompted companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple to develop their own AI systems rapidly. However, Amazon needs to be more efficient in integrating generative AI into its products. Reuters' sources have indicated that Amazon's senior management views 2024 as a crucial year for Alexa, despite substantial staff cuts in the Alexa division in late 2023.

During its annual device event in Seattle last September, Amazon showcased several prototype generative AI features, but none have yet been released to consumers. The new Remarkable Alexa would replace the current free version, known internally as “Classic Alexa,” with a still-free generative AI model.

What do you get with the new subscription?

Subscribers paying the US$5 to US$10 monthly fee would gain access to a more advanced model capable of answering complex questions, drafting essential emails, and ordering food through Uber Eats—all from a single prompt without needing to say “Alexa” at the start of each command.

It's still unclear whether the subscription will be tied to Amazon's existing US$140-per-year Prime service. Whether users will be willing to pay for a service they previously enjoyed for free, especially with alternatives like Siri, Gemini, or ChatGPT available, remains to be seen.

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Emma Job
Emma Job
Emma is a freelance news editor at Tech Edition. With a decade's experience in content writing, she revels in both crafting and immersing herself in narratives. From tracking down viral trends to delving into the most recent news stories, her goal is to deliver insightful and timely content to her readers.

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