Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Charging for “Remarkable Alexa”

Scharon Harding (via Hacker News):

A quote from an anonymous Amazon employee in a Wednesday Business Insider report paints a dire picture. Amazon needs its upcoming subscription version of Alexa to drive revenue in ways that its voice assistant never has before.


All voice assistants have struggled to drive revenue since people tend to use voice assistants for basic queries, like checking the weather, rather than transactions.

Amazon announced plans to drive usage and interest in Alexa by releasing a generative AI version that it said would one day require a subscription.

I wonder if they’ll include it with Amazon Prime, as I’m hearing more grumbling about whether that subscription is still worth it now that the price has increased, shipping has slowed, and Prime Video will be adding commercials.


I used to find my Alexa devices useful, until they took the widely-discussed quality nosedive and started understanding less than half of what they used to. I can’t think of anything else I’ve purchased that became so markedly worse of a thing after I bought it. 1 experience of misunderstanding stomps out 10 of it working perfectly.

I’d read a book on the inside story of the failure of this product. From cute, moderately useful novelty to glitchy, nagging revenue grab that takes it upon itself to come into your home with “offers”. Eroding goodwill, missing the boat on AI you’re naturally leveraged to integrate with your large installed base, it’s shiny object middle management bingo.


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Google home is becoming stupider day by day. Of still get a new one of it broke.

Best egg timer & radio combo I've owned.

Kevin Schumacher

Do not use Alexa and likely never will. I guess I'm not big on voice control other than using Siri to control HomeKit and timers. I've thought at times about a HomePod but I don't listen to music like that very often, and my watch is almost always with me. I've never considered Alexa products just based on not trusting Amazon with that data.

Interesting you bring up Prime, though--I was just considering yesterday whether I should leave auto-renew on for later this year. I live in a relatively rural location (7k people, about 90 min from the nearest Walmart, for reference), so same-day and even one-day are too much for me to realistically expect. That said, the number of items available with even two-day shipping here--compared to before the pandemic--has dropped drastically. What's the point? Walmart and Target are on top of it with actual 2-day delivery on most stuff and often beat their own shipping estimates, though Walmart's site is even worse than Amazon's for actually buying anything.

The thing we really get out of it is free games/add-ons and my husband uses the free Twitch Prime subscription each month. Shipping is nice but my Amazon purchasing has slowed way down in the last several years.

And don't get me started on the whole "free returns" thing where the only "free" option is to drive 2 hours one way to the nearest UPS Store or Kohl's. Fine print says there will be at least one free option, but that is not free. I've often thought that would be a great angle for a class action.

Did Amazon really think people would be using Alexa for shopping enough to cover the costs of developing and maintaining it? I use my Alexa many times a day, but I've never bought anything using it.

I think we (consumers and manufacturers) need to accept that IoT devices that need a cloud service or constant development need to have subscriptions. Those subscriptions also need to be there day one, otherwise customers are going to walk away if subscriptions are added later (look at the downfall of Wink).

I'm tired of subscriptions too, so it really needs to be worth it. I won't pay a subscription to use a smart switch or light bulb. Assuming the cost is reasonable ($5 a month?) I'm willing to pay for Alexa. They better stop with all the stupid suggestions though.

I thick it's a great example of focusing on growth first and figuring out how to monetize later.

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