Amazon ‘fully committed’ to Alexa despite layoffs, hardware chief says

David Limp, Senior Vice President of Devices and Services, Inc., introduced the Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker at a launch event at the company’s Spheres headquarters in Seattle, Washington, USA on Thursday, September 20, 2018. increase.

Andrew Burton | Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Amazon The company’s head of hardware, Dave Limp, said Friday that the company hasn’t given up on its Alexa voice assistant.

Amazon last year laid off employees of the company’s workforce as part of a broader move by CEO Andy Jassy to cut spending amid a deteriorating economic outlook and slowing revenue growth. The company’s Devices and Services division, which oversees the development of products such as Alexa, Echo smart speakers and Kindle e-readers, is among the affected groups.

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Nearly 2,000 people have been laid off in Limp’s division as a result of the job cuts, he told CNBC’s Jon Fortt in an interview with TechCheck.

Jassy said this week that the company is aiming to eliminate more than 18,000 roles, mostly in its stores and HR organization. However, he said the number was fluid and subject to change.

Alongside the layoffs, Amazon has also frozen the hiring of new corporate employees and shut down some of its more experimental projects, such as telemedicine services and video calling devices for children.

“What we’ve done is look at projects that are probably the risks and rewards of those projects and what they might offer their customers in this uncertainty,” Limp said. “Some of it was in Alexa, and some of it was in other parts of my organization.”

Still, Amazon remains “fully committed” to its Alexa division despite taking steps to be more disciplined on costs amid a “highly uncertain economy,” Limp said. rice field.

“There are still thousands of people working on this project,” Limp said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “It’s a big project.”

Since its launch in 2014, Amazon has invested heavily in Alexa and assigned top talent to grow the technology. It’s largely based on the direction of Jeff Bezos, who first marketed Alexa and strongly believed that voice would play an important role in how people interacted with computers. future. At one point, Amazon had 5,000 people working on Alexa and Echo.

Amazon has sold devices like the Echo at or near full price. Instead, Amazon sees them as a way to draw customers into the broader Amazon ecosystem to purchase anything from or other properties.

Limp dismissed the notion that Amazon may need to raise prices significantly because it’s taking a tougher look at costs. Prices for some items used in Amazon’s devices, such as memory and displays, have increased, and they could be passed on to consumers, he said. But in general, Amazon’s hardware business model remains the same, he said.

“We try to sell our products roughly at breakeven, sometimes a little higher,” Limp says. “And when customers use them, they say they shop from Alexa, which benefits Amazon as a whole and gives customers a great shopping experience. That’s how we move these things forward.

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