Amazon’s plan to put a popular home product behind a paywall hits a roadblock

Amazon is planning to give its voice assistant Alexa a makeover, but the changes will come with a price tag for consumers as the online retail giant is aiming to launch a paid subscription for the revamped Alexa this summer, sparking concern amongst a few employees at the company, according to a recent report from Business Insider.

Insider reveals that the paid subscription for the revamped Alexa is called Alexa Plus, and Amazon is planning to debut it to consumers on June 30 for a price that is currently unknown. The new version of Alexa will include improved AI technology that will make the voice assistant more conversational and smarter, and Amazon is calling the project Remarkable Alexa.

Related: Amazon is making a major change to Alexa you may not like

The company teased the changes to Alexa in an announcement in September last year where it revealed that it plans to give the voice assistant more personality and allow it to have “a point of view, making conversations more engaging.”

“We’ve been on that journey to create that superhuman assistant for more than a decade now,” said Dave Limp, then-senior vice president of Amazon devices, at a September event from Amazon’s HQ2. “But with generative AI, it’s now within reach.”

That same month, Limp also confirmed in an interview with Bloomberg that because the cost to train “superhuman” Alexa is “substantial,” the company will charge customers for the upgraded service, but at a price point that customers say they are comfortable with.

“We don’t have an idea of a price yet,” said Limp while speaking to Bloomberg. “We’ll talk to customers and learn from them, what they believe the value is. The Alexa that you know and love today is going to remain free.”

Dave Limp, then-senior vice president of Devices & Services, talks about Alexa’s conversational ability at Amazon’s HQ2 in Crystal City, Virginia on Sept. 20, 2023. 

The Washington Post/Getty Images

As Amazon is ramping up its efforts to develop Remarkable Alexa, Insider also revealed in its report that creating the updated voice assistant has reportedly caused internal conflict within the company.

Remarkable Alexa is currently being tested on 15,000 customers, and while the voice assistant is more conversational and smarter, it has been “deflecting” answers, giving “unnecessarily long or inaccurate responses” to questions and struggling to answer “ambiguous customer requests.”

Some employees at Amazon are allegedly questioning whether or not consumers would pay for Remarkable Alexa while they are already paying for additional Amazon services.

Remarkable Alexa appears to be Amazon’s effort to revive the voice assistant after it was reported in 2022 that Alexa and other Amazon devices was set to lose $10 billion that year. One employee at the company even dubbed Alexa as a “colossal failure.” As a result of the failing voice assistant, the unit responsible for developing Alexa was targeted in one of the company’s biggest layoffs in history where around 10,000 employees lost their jobs.

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