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Amazon Alexa's 'Colossal Failure' Is Just a Symptom of a Larger Hemorrhage in the Tech Industry

As the ground beneath the tech industry continues to shift, voice assistants may be a casualty most are willing to part with.

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Amazon’s Alexa, which can be accessed with an Echo smart speaker, is usually used by consumers for minor requests which the company can’t easily monetize.
Amazon’s Alexa, which can be accessed with an Echo smart speaker, is usually used by consumers for minor requests which the company can’t easily monetize.
Image: Grant Hindsley/AFP (Getty Images)

Alexa, are you feeling okay? Amidst ongoing reports of turmoil in the tech industry from mass layoffs to consumer privacy issues, there has been buzz around the future of Amazon’s iconic voice assistant. As former employees and sales trends paint a devastating picture for the fate of Amazon’s Alexa, the technology is not alone in its uncertain lifespan.

Earlier this month, Business Insider described the internal tension that has plagued Amazon’s Worldwide Digital unit, which includes the brains behind some of Amazon’s biggest products, like Alexa and the Echo smart speakers. Anonymous employees expressed a growing disillusionment from executives, including Jeff Bezos himself, as layoffs plague the company and the unit more specifically.

Alexa and Echo absolutely boomed after its launch in November 2014 as the novelty of the tech enticed consumers, but over the following years privacy concerns and underutilization of Alexa fueled its downfall. Amazon marketed Alexa at a low price in order to use it as a conduit to get consumers to purchase more from Amazon, but the voice assistant quickly became the subject of innocuous requests to play music and to relay weather conditions, not to purchase more laundry detergent.

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“Alexa is a colossal failure of imagination,” an anonymous former employee said to Insider. “It was a wasted opportunity.”

But Alexa is not alone, as voice assistants as a whole are facing a tough time. As tech companies continue to grapple with economic uncertainty and subsequent layoffs, Axios argues they are also redirecting money away from products like voice assistants. For example, The Information reported in October that Google is pulling attention away from its Google Assistant engineering for non-Google devices. Some voice assistants haven’t even really gotten their seat at the table—looking at you Cortana.

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ArsTechnica says that Google and Amazon’s voice assistant conundrum is two sides of the same coin. Consumers aren’t using these pieces of tech for anything more than simple requests, which Amazon and Google can’t easily monetize, which basically undermines the entire reason for the voice assistants to exist in the first place. The only solutions are to execute the tech slowly or to repurpose it into something more useful, but both options will likely end up leaving employees on the chopping block.