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June 17, 2024

Amazon’s Paid Alexa Subscriptions Face Issues Ahead of Launch

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Jan 18, 2024

Amazon is planning to launch a paid subscription service called Alexa Plus later this year that would unlock additional features, but the rollout is facing internal roadblocks.

Backstory: Amazon Has Dominated the Smart Speaker Market with Alexa

Amazon first launched its Alexa virtual assistant in 2014 along with the Echo smart speaker. Since then, Alexa and Echo devices have come to dominate the smart speaker market, with Amazon holding a market share of over 70% in the US as of 2022 (source).

The standard Alexa assistant available on Echo devices today can perform a variety of tasks like playing music, controlling smart home devices, setting timers and alarms, telling jokes, and answering basic questions. However, Alexa’s capabilities still lag behind more advanced AI assistants.

Why a Paid Version? Adding Advanced AI Capabilities Through Alexa Plus

With competition heating up against Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri, Amazon has been working on adding more advanced AI functions to Alexa through a paid “Alexa Plus” subscription service (source 1, source 2).

Alexa Plus promises features like:

  • Personalized recommendations for media and shopping
  • More contextual conversations and ability to follow complex multi-part instructions
  • Customize wake words and Alexa’s voice
  • Proactive notifications and reminders powered by AI

These enhanced capabilities would bring Alexa closer to assistants like Google Assistant. However, building reliable AI is complex, as seen by issues faced by Alexa Plus ahead of its launch.

Troubles Building the AI – Alexa Plus Faces Internal Roadblocks

Sources indicate the Alexa Plus subscription service was planned to launch in the first half of 2023, but has now potentially been delayed due to internal conflicts (source 1, source 2).

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy reportedly does not believe the current Alexa Plus capabilities would warrant charging customers a subscription fee. Amazon’s AI labs have struggled to deliver the complex AI functions promised for Alexa Plus so far.

As an Amazon senior manager told Business Insider:

“The tech is just not ready yet for what they want…It’s not as smart as advertised, which has created conflicts over timeline.”

Feature Status
Personalized recommendations Partially working
Contextual conversations Not fully reliable
Complex instructions Facing issues
Custom voices Available
Proactive notifications Still in development

Without advanced AI capabilities like reliable contextual conversations, Amazon may not be able to justify asking customers to pay $4-$10 per month as rumored for Alexa Plus subscriptions (source).

What’s Next for Alexa Plus?

Alexa Plus is still expected to launch later this year after more development time. But the rollout could be limited instead of launching widely as originally planned (source).

If technical hurdles creating the promised AI persist, Amazon may be forced to scale back features or make them available for free rather than as a paid service. The Alexa assistant is a key selling point for Amazon’s Echo smart speakers and other devices, so ensuring high reliability and satisfaction is likely the top priority over monetization through subscriptions.

Competitors like Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri continue to advance as well, pushing Amazon to speed up Alexa’s development. Ultimately though, reliably delivering on ambitious AI promises with the user experience customers expect seems to be the primary challenge Amazon needs to solve still for Alexa Plus or other high-end Alexa offerings. Getting there may require more patience and resources than anticipated.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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