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Alexa Plus? Amazon Mulls Charging for Its Voice Assistant



AI chatbots have taken the tech world by storm, particularly OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which is already charging $20 per month for its premium service. Over at Amazon, Alexa is still free, but that could change as the company beefs up the voice assistant’s capabilities.

Dave Limp, the outgoing VP of Amazon’s devices and services division, spoke to Bloomberg about his tenure at the company, and suggested that his successor—former Microsoft Surface exec Panos Panay—may have “charge for Alexa” on his to-do-list.

Amazon is “absolutely” thinking about a subscription model for Alexa, Limp said. But it’s not going to happen overnight. “Before we would start charging customers for this — and I believe we will — it has to be remarkable. It has to prove the utility that you’re coming to expect from the ‘superhuman’ assistant.”

Limp declined to offer a price, and said “the Alexa that you know and love today is going to remain free.” But powering an AI chatbot is not cheap. “The cost for inference of the model in the cloud is substantial,” he said.

Alexa hasn’t exactly been a real money-maker, in part because of its limited capabilities. As Bloomberg’s Dave Lee points out, people are using ChatGPT to write essays and Alexa to set timers. Limp argues that Alexa has a lot of advantages over ChatGPT, such as a physical presence in people’s homes via its Echo devices, as well as cars, TVs, and more.

During his keynote address at Amazon’s fall product event, Limp talked about how generative AI will soon boost Alexa’s capabilities and allow for people to have a more natural back-and-forth with the voice assistant, as you might with ChatGPT. But Limp said those upgrades would’ve happened regardless of whether ChatGPT came on the scene.

“There’s no way we could have shown you what we showed you [at the fall event] and what we’re going to be shipping before the end of the year, if we had started it when ChatGPT was announced,” Limp said.

Limp concluded by urging the consumer electronics industry to take more risks. If his rumored next gig—CEO at aerospace firm Blue Origin—is any indication, he’s ready to do that himself.



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