Amazon in talks to offer low-cost or free mobile service to Prime customers, report says

Amazon is considering offering low-cost or possibly free nationwide mobile phone service to Prime subscribers in the United States, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The tech giant is reportedly in talks with Verizon, T-Mobile, Dish Network and AT&T.

People familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that Amazon is considering offering wireless plans for $10 a month or possibly for free, in a move to bolster loyalty among subscribers. Currently, some people may cancel their Prime subscription and then sign-up again when they want to. If Amazon were to bundle mobile service into Prime, it would likely lead to people sticking with their subscriptions long-term.

The report says the talks have been going on for around two months. Amazon may take several months to launch the service, or may scrap the plan altogether.

In a statement to TechCrunch, Amazon spokesperson Bradley Mattinger denied that Amazon is planning to add mobile service to Prime. “We are always exploring adding even more benefits for Prime members, but don’t have plans to add wireless at this time,” Mattinger said.

Shares of Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile fell following the publication of Bloomberg’s report in premarket trading on Friday. Verizon stock fell 5%, shares of AT&T fell 5.9% and shares of T-Mobile fell 6.8%. TechCrunch has reached out to Verizon and T-Mobile for comment. AT&T declined to comment.

A Prime subscription includes fast free delivery, access to Prime Video and 100 million songs. Bloomberg’s report comes as analysts have said Prime membership has stagnated ever since Amazon raised the subscription’s annual fee from $119 to $139.

Amazon is facing increased competition from Walmart and its Walmart+ membership which costs $98 annually and offers some of the same fast delivery perks as Prime at a lower cost. The membership also includes a subscription to Paramount+, which competes with Prime Video. In February, Amazon started charging delivery fees for Fresh grocery orders that are under $150. In the past, Amazon offered Prime members free grocery deliveries on orders above $35.

The report notes that although Amazon would be paying wireless carriers to use their networks, the wireless carriers potentially have a lot to lose. If Amazon does end up offering low-cost or free mobile service, it would be competing with the wireless carriers for their current customers. However, Bloomberg notes that the carriers aren’t really in a position to say no, as they have invested billions of dollars into 5G networks and are looking to find new sales outlets to generate some return on their massive investments.

The move wouldn’t demonstrate Amazon’s first foray into the wireless industry, as the company plans to start testing its satellite-internet service, called Project Kuiper, next year. And in 2014, the tech giant released the $199 Fire Phone, but ended up discontinuing it around a year later.

It’s worth noting that Google already has a wireless network called Google Fi Wireless, which operates as a mobile virtual network operator, as it runs on T-Mobile’s network.

Amazon in talks to offer low-cost or free mobile service to Prime customers, report says by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch

Amazon settles with FTC for $25M after ‘flouting’ kids’ privacy and deletion requests

Amazon will pay the FTC a $25 million penalty as well as “overhaul its deletion practices and implement stringent privacy safeguards” to avoid charges of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act to spruce up its AI.

Amazon’s voice interface Alexa has been in use in homes across the globe for years, and any parent who has one knows that kids love to play with it, make it tell jokes, even use it for its intended purpose, whatever that is. In fact it was so obviously useful to kids who can’t write or have disabilities that the FTC relaxed COPPA rules to accommodate reasonable usage: Certain service-specific analysis of kids’ data, like transcription, was allowed as long as it is not retained any longer than reasonably necessary.

It seems that Amazon may have taken a rather expansive view on the “reasonably necessary” timescale, keeping kids’ speech data more or less forever. As the FTC puts it:

Amazon retained children’s recordings indefinitely — unless a parent requested that this information be deleted, according to the complaint. And even when a parent sought to delete that information, the FTC said, Amazon failed to delete transcripts of what kids said from all its databases.

Geolocation data was also not deleted, a problem the company “repeatedly failed to fix.”

This has been going on for years — the FTC alleges that Amazon knew about it as early as 2018 but didn’t take action until September of the next year, after the agency gave them a helpful nudge.

That kind of timing usually indicates that a company would have continued with this practice forever. Apparently, due to “faulty fixes and process fiascos,” some of those practices did continue until 2022!

You may well ask, what is the point of having a bunch of recordings of kids talking to Alexa? Well, if you plan on having your voice interface talk to kids a lot, it sure helps to have a secret database of audio interactions that you can train your machine learning models on. That’s how the FTC said Amazon justified its retention of this data.

FTC Commissioners Bedoya and Slaughter, as well as Chair Khan, wrote a statement accompanying the settlement proposal and complaint to particularly call out this one point:

The Commission alleges that Amazon kept kids’ data indefinitely to further refine its voice recognition algorithm. Amazon is not alone in apparently seeking to amass data to refine its machine learning models; right now, with the advent of large language models, the tech industry as a whole is sprinting to do the same.

Today’s settlement sends a message to all those companies: Machine learning is no excuse to break the law. Claims from businesses that data must be indefinitely retained to improve algorithms do not override legal bans on indefinite retention of data. The data you use to improve your algorithms must be lawfully collected and lawfully retained. Companies would do well to heed this lesson.

So today we have the $25 million fine, which is of course less than negligible for a company Amazon’s size. It’s clearly complying with the other provisions of the proposed order that will likely give them a headache. The FTC says the order would:

  • Prohibit Amazon from using geolocation, voice information and children’s voice information subject to consumers’ deletion requests for the creation or improvement of any data product.
  • Require the company to delete inactive Alexa accounts of children.
  • Require Amazon to notify users about the FTC-DOJ action against the company.
  • Require Amazon to notify users of its retention and deletion practices and controls.
  • Prohibit Amazon from misrepresenting its privacy policies related to geolocation, voice and children’s voice information.
  • Mandate the creation and implementation of a privacy program related to the company’s use of geolocation information.

This settlement and action is totally independent from the FTC’s other one announced today, with Amazon subsidiary Ring. There is a certain common thread of “failing to implement basic privacy and security protections,” though.

In a statement, Amazon said that “While we disagree with the FTC’s claims and deny violating the law, this settlement puts the matter behind us.” They also promise to “remove child profiles that have been inactive for more than 18 months,” which seems incredibly long to retain that data. I’ve followed up with questions about that duration and whether the data will be used for ML training and will update if I hear back.

Amazon settles with FTC for $25M after ‘flouting’ kids’ privacy and deletion requests by Devin Coldewey originally published on TechCrunch

New regulation in India seeks to stub out tobacco glorification on streaming platforms

India’s health ministry has unveiled stringent guidelines for on-demand video streaming services, necessitating warnings about smoking and the use of other tobacco products when such activities are portrayed on screen. The new regulations, termed as the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Amendments Rules, 2023, will come into effect in three months.

The updated policy mandates the incorporation of anti-tobacco health spots, of at least half a minute in duration, at the opening and midpoint of the programme. It also necessitates the prominent display of a health warning in the form of text at the lower end of the screen during sequences that depict tobacco consumption.

In addition, an audio-visual disclaimer detailing the harmful impact of tobacco consumption, lasting no less than 20 seconds, will be required at the outset and halfway point of any programme. This clause is a key part of the health ministry’s concerted efforts to ramp up its anti-smoking campaign.

Tobacco consumption in India is significant, with the country being one of the largest consumers of tobacco worldwide. Over 260 million adults in India use tobacco in some form, with smokeless tobacco being the most prevalent form.

In a further attempt to curb the glamorisation of smoking, the policy stipulates that streaming platforms are prohibited from displaying the branding of any cigarettes or other tobacco products. The same products can also no longer be used within any promotional material for the platform’s content.

The new rules give authority to representatives from both the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Electronics and IT to take punitive action if any streaming platform fails to comply with the regulations.

New regulation in India seeks to stub out tobacco glorification on streaming platforms by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Sorry, but Alexa can no longer talk like Samuel L Jackson

Amazon is discontinuing celebrity voices for Alexa—a feature you may or may not have known about. The three Alexa voices — Samuel L. Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Melissa McCarthy — are no longer available for purchase.

The Verge was the first to report the news.

Launched in 2019, the celebrity voices use Amazon’s neural text-to-speech model, which uses machine learning and is meant to sound more lifelike. Instead of relying on prerecorded responses, the model generates voices with fun personalities.

Last month, Amazon stopped supporting the voice of Jackson on Alexa devices, including voice-activated Echo devices, FireTV Cube and FireTV Omni.

Jackson was the first voice to be introduced and could tell users jokes and stories or answer questions. The biggest perk was choosing between the explicit or clean version, which was probably fun for fans that wanted to hear Jackson yell his iconic line from “Snakes on a Plane.”

Meanwhile, users that have already purchased McCarthy and Shaq voices have until September 30 before the feature is no longer supported on Alexa devices. This means customers still have four months to mess around with it. For instance, they can ask the device, “Hey Melissa, tell me about Bridesmaids” or “Hey Shaq, play rock, paper, scissors.”

Amazon was not immediately available to respond to TechCrunch, so we don’t know exactly why the company decided to shut down the celebrity voice feature. However, it’s safe to assume that there was limited adoption. After all, we doubt enough people were willing to spend $4.99 for just one celebrity voice. At launch, there was an introductory discount of $0.99.

The feature is also limited in regards to what the voices can respond to. While users can tell Shaq to set an alarm, the voice can’t help with shopping lists, reminders, or skills.

Additionally, Amazon likely shut down the feature in order to save costs. In November 2022, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon was looking at its devices division, which includes Alexa, as part of the company’s cost-cutting review. The publication noted that, in recent years, Amazon’s devices segment had an operating loss of over $5 billion a year.

Sorry, but Alexa can no longer talk like Samuel L Jackson by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch

Amazon is testing dine-in payments in India

After shutting down its food delivery business last year, Amazon India is now experimenting with dine-in payments. The company has initiated a limited introduction of bill payments at restaurants using Amazon Pay.

The facility is currently active in select areas of Bengaluru with a limited set of restaurants. Users can head to Amazon Pay > Dining in the Amazon app to make payments using credit/debit cards, net banking, UPI, or Amazon Pay Later. At the moment, Amazon India is offering discounts on bill payments at almost all listed restaurants.

Image Credits: Amazon

It’s not clear if the e-commerce group is testing this in any other city. Amazon India spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment.

Image Credits: Amazon

Food delivery bigwigs Zomato and Swiggy both offer in-restaurant payments and discounts as they attempt to attract more customers. Earlier this month, Zomato launched its own UPI service in partnership with the ICICI bank for quicker checkout and bill payment.

The National Restaurant Association of India, a consortium in the hospitality sector, last year warned against dining payment products from food delivery firms in an advisory to its members.

Amazon’s new experiment is another attempt at finding ways to engage customers in India. It is facing challenges in India and has struggled to make inroads into smaller towns in the country, according to a report from investment firm Sanford C. Bernstein. The e-commerce giant insists that 85% of its customers are from tier 2/3 cities/towns.

Bernstein’s report also noted that the company is facing a tough regulatory environment and as a result falling behind Walmart-backed Flipkart. Notably, Amazon omitted India mentions for the first time since 2014 from its Q1 2023 results.

Earlier this year, Amazon joined Open Network for Digital Commerce, an initiative set up by India’s ecommerce ministry, in limited capacity to create an “interoperable” network for sellers. ONCD’s aim is to let retailers join a digital network that doesn’t rely on central marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart.

Amazon is testing dine-in payments in India by Ivan Mehta originally published on TechCrunch

Amazon backs Indian kids fashion brand Hopscotch in $20M funding

Hopscotch, an Indian brand offering fashion wear for kids, has raised $20 million in a funding round led by Amazon amid the ongoing market slowdown and funding crunch that have significantly impacted young firms in the South Asian nation.

The Mumbai-headquartered startup’s Series E financing round also saw participation from existing investors including IIFL Seed Venture Fund, RPG Ventures, Lionrock and Techpro Ventures. Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin also invested in the round, the startup said.

Founded in 2015, Hopscotch competes against the likes of FirstCry, Babyhug and Luvlap with its wide-collection of kids’ fashion wear and accessories. The startup gained popularity from various online marketplaces, though it eponymous apps only have about 700,000 monthly active users, according to Sensor Tower data shared by an industry executive.

“Hopscotch is the go-to digital brand for parents who want their kids to look stylish – everyday and on every special occasion,” said Rahul Anand, founder and chief executive of Hopscotch, in a prepared statement. “This investment allows us to invest in marketing, broaden our selection, and enable more customers to express their unique sense of style.”

Hopscotch plans to deploy the fresh funds to expand its offerings and reach with the latest trends in the kids’ fashion category. To date, the startup has raised $71 million, according to data insight platform Tracxn.

“Hopscotch has strong brand recall in the kids’ category,” said Preetham N, Director, Corporate Development at Amazon, in a statement. “With this investment, we are happy to work with Hopscotch as it continues to reach and delight more customers. Rahul, the founder, and his management team are passionate about building out the brand. We have been impressed to see what they have done till date.”

In April 2021, Amazon announced plans invest $250 million in Indian startups through a new vehicle called the Amazon Smbhav Venture Fund. The U.S. giant has since then backed startups including fintech platform M1xcharge, online fresh meat startup FreshToHome and men’s innerwear brand XYXX.

Amazon backs Indian kids fashion brand Hopscotch in $20M funding by Jagmeet Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Amazon launches its biggest tablet, the $230 Fire Max 11

Amazon launched its biggest tablet today called the Fire Max 11 tablet with an 11-inch screen. The company is pricing the device at $229.99 — offering a cheaper option for users than the 10.9-inch iPad and the new Pixel tablet with a similar-sized screen.

The tablet’s screen supports 2000 x 1200 resolution resulting in a 5:3 aspect ratio. It’s an unusual size given that iPad has a 59:41 aspect ratio and the Pixel tablet has a more standard 16:10 aspect ratio. The company claims that its aluminum frame design and toughened glass make it three times as durable as the 10.9-inch iPad. This also marks an upgrade from last year’s Amazon Fire HD 10, which was Amazon’s biggest tablet until now.

Image Credits: Amazon

The Fire Max 11 is powered by an octa-core MediaTek processor and 4GB of RAM. Amazon said the Fire Max tablet offers a “14-hour battery life” without specifying the battery size. Plus, the company ships a slow 9W USB 2.0 charger in the box, which fully charges the device in 4.2 hours. You can buy a 15W charger separately and reduce the charging time to 3.5 hours.

The e-commerce giant’s new device has an 8-megapixel camera on the front and the back for video calls. Plus, you can connect wireless headphones through Bluetooth 5.3. There are also dual speakers with Dolby Atmos support for consuming videos.

Amazon is also launching a keyboard case that magnetically attaches to the device through pogo pins and a stylus. If users are buying both devices with the Fire Max tablet the whole package will cost them $329.99. Amazon has priced this tablet for folks who might want a device for productivity or family but don’t want to spend iPad money.

Image Credits: Amazon

Apart from Alexa integration for voice commands, the tablet offers a Show Mode (just like the Echo Show) to control compatible smart home devices. Plus, the company allows you to create two adult and four kids’ profiles for family sharing with access to Amazon Kids content and parent controls.

The Fire Max 11 is available for pre-order starting today with the device and accessories shipping next month. The tablet is available in 64GB and 128GB storage options. Amazon is also offering buyers a three-month subscription to the Microsoft Office 365 Personal plan, which gives them access to apps like Excel and Word.

Earlier this month, an analyst firm IDC reported that the worldwide tablet market registered a 19.1% dip in Q1 2023. It said that the 30.7 million shipment figure is indicative that the market is returning to the pre-pandemic level. More importantly, the report said that Amazon had a shipment decline of 62% year-over-year and had the lowest figures since the pandemic.

Amazon launches its biggest tablet, the $230 Fire Max 11 by Ivan Mehta originally published on TechCrunch

Popular Android TV boxes sold on Amazon are laced with malware

AllWinner and RockChip might not be household names, but the two China-based companies manufacture several wildly popular Android TV boxes that are sold on Amazon.

These Android-powered television set-top boxes are typically cheap and are highly customizable, packing several streaming services into a single device, rather than buying separate hardware. Their listings on Amazon boast four-out-of-five star ratings and collectively racked up thousands of praiseworthy reviews.

But security researchers say the models are sold preloaded with malware capable of launching coordinated cyberattacks.

Last year, Daniel Milisic bought an AllWinner T95 set-top box and discovered it was infected with malware. Milisic found that the Android-powered set-top box was communicating with command and control servers and awaiting instructions on what to do next. His ongoing investigation, which he published on GitHub, found that his T95 model was out-of-the-box connecting to a larger botnet of thousands of other malware-infected Android TV boxes in homes and offices across the globe.

Milisic said the malware’s default payload is a clickbot, essentially code that generates ad money by surreptitiously tapping on ads in the background. After the affected Android TV boxes are powered on, the preloaded malware immediately contacts a command and control server, obtains its instructions of where to find the malware it needs, and pulls additional payloads to the device that carries out the ad-click fraud.

“But because of the way the malware is designed, the authors can push out any payload they like,” Milisic told TechCrunch.

EFF security researcher Bill Budington independently confirmed Milisic’s findings after also buying an affected device from Amazon. Several other AllWinner and RockChip Android TV models are also preloaded with the malware, including the AllWinner T95Max, RockChip X12 Plus, and RockChip X88 Pro 10.

a screenshot of the AllWinner T95 listed on Amazon

A screenshot of the AllWinner T95 listed on Amazon. Image Credits: TechCrunch (screenshot)

Botnets are usually made up of hundreds, if not thousands or millions, of compromised devices around the world. The operators behind the botnet can use this vast malicious network for mining cryptocurrency on an affected device, stealing data (if any) from the device or the network it’s connected to or harnessing the collective internet bandwidth from these devices to pummel other websites and internet servers with junk traffic, known as a distributed denial-of-service attack, knocking them offline.

Milisic asked the internet company hosting the command and control servers that dished out instructions to the wider botnet to pull those servers offline, and the servers hosting the ad-click malware disappeared a short time after. He warned, though, that the botnet could come back at any time with new infrastructure.

It’s not clear how large the botnet is. “It’s difficult to quantify the scale of this network,” Budington told TechCrunch. “What we do know is that everywhere we look there are different variants of Android trojan malware downloading next-stage malware from the same set of IPs, ones that have been involved in supply-chain attacks in the past. It’s an impressive and unsettling operation.”

Milisic and Budington note that there’s no easy way to remove the malware for the average user. Throwing out the box altogether might be the best option for affected users.

“I think the only way to mitigate this problem is to hold retailers to a higher standard,” Milisic told TechCrunch. Referring to online sellers like Amazon, “they’re not allowed to sell children’s toys made out of spinning razor blades, why is it OK to let small, unknown vendors sell computers acting maliciously without owners’ knowledge and permission?”

When reached by TechCrunch, Amazon spokesperson Adam Montgomery declined to say if Amazon reviews the security of the devices it sells or if it plans to remove from sale the malware-containing devices in question.

AllWinner and RockChip did not return requests for comment.

There has been a push in recent years to improve the standards of hardware security. The Biden administration said it plans to roll out a labeling system for internet-connected devices this year as part of efforts to encourage device makers to improve their device security, such as adding update mechanisms to patch security flaws. In 2018, California passed a law that bans internet-connected devices from using default and easy-to-guess passwords, which bad actors often use to hack into devices and ensnare them into a botnet.

At the time of writing, the affected AllWinner and RockChip models are still available for sale on Amazon.

Popular Android TV boxes sold on Amazon are laced with malware by Zack Whittaker originally published on TechCrunch

AWS to invest $12.7 billion in India

Amazon plans to invest $12.7 billion into its cloud infrastructure in India by 2030, the e-commerce group said Thursday, as it pushes ahead to scale up its AWS business in the key overseas market at a time when it has cut several other spendings in the region.

The company, which has earlier invested $3.7 billion for AWS infra in India and currently maintains two data center regions in the South Asian market, said its spendings will support 131,700 full-time jobs. The announcement comes as a surprise, with Amazon reinforcing its commitment by doubling down. Just last year, the company had stated its intention to invest $4.4 billion in AWS for the country.

Amazon’s cloud unit currently leads the market in India and has amassed a number of major clients including Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, Niti Aayog, PhysicsWallah and Acko.

“Since 2016, AWS has invested billions of dollars into cloud infrastructure in India to support the tremendous growth we have witnessed in the use of cloud for digital transformation,” said Puneet Chandok, president of commercial business, AWS India and South Asia, in a statement.

“AWS is committed to driving positive social and economic impact in India. In addition to building cloud infrastructure and helping local customers and partners digitally transform, we have trained more than four million people in India with cloud skills since 2017, and invested in six utility-scale renewable energy projects to meet our global 100% renewable energy goal by 2025. Our planned investment of INR 1,05,600 crores (US $12.7 billion) by 2030 will help create more beneficial ripple effects, supporting India on its path to becoming a global digital powerhouse.”

India is a key overseas market for Amazon, where it has poured over $6.5 billion since entering the country’s e-commerce market in the past decade. Google also has two cloud regions in India whereas Microsoft maintains three.

The announcement arrives amidst Amazon closing numerous businesses in India, prompting several analysts to question whether the American titan was scaling back its presence in the country. Walmart, Amazon’s global rival, has also spent over $2.5 billion in India this year.

“PM Narendra Modi ji’s Digital India vision is driving expansion of cloud & data centers in India,” said Rajeev Chandrashekhar, minister of state for electronics and information technology, skill development and entrepreneurship in India, in a statement. “India Cloud and the underlying data center infrastructure are important elements of India’s digital infrastructure and ecosystem. I welcome the Amazon Web Services (AWS) investment of $12.7 billion to expand their data centers in India. It will certainly catalyze India’s digital economy. MeitY is also working on a Cloud & Data Center Policy to catalyze innovation, sustainability, and growth of India Cloud.”

More to follow.

AWS to invest $12.7 billion in India by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Amazon undercuts the Echo Dot with the $40 Echo Pop

You know the old saying: If you don’t like Amazon Echo’s form factors, just wait a few minutes. The company has seemingly attempted everything when it comes to getting Alexa into more homes. Some stood the test of time, while others have been lost to the sands of time. Remember the Amazon Tap? The Echo Look? What about the Echo Spot (I really liked that one), Plus and Loop? (I write about this stuff for a living, and I’d completely forgotten that the company made an Alexa Ring.) Some outlived their usefulness, some were cannibalized by different products and some never made much sense to begin with.

The release cadence appears to have slowed a bit from the years when the company was dropping Big Mouth Billy Basses on our heads, but reports of the division’s demise do appear somewhat exaggerated for the time being. This morning the company announced upgrades to existing devices and a new device in the form of the Echo Pop, a unidirectional smart speaker that occupies roughly the same space as its perennial favorite, the Echo Dot.

Image Credits: Amazon

Products like the Echo Dot and Google Home Mini are designed to get their respective smart assistants through the door. The cost is low enough to consider buying one for the sole purpose of serving as a cheap wireless speaker. Whatever the marketing materials might say (I see the phrase “great sound” bandied about enough that it has lost all meaning), most people who buy one are under no illusion that they’re getting some premium audiophile experience ( I hope).

Once it’s in place, you might as well ask Alexa to play some music for you. And maybe a weather forecast. Oh, and that smart bulb your cousin you talk to once a year got you for Christmas — you can control that, too. Then you wake up one morning and there are 50 Echo devices in your house, including three in the bathroom.

Image Credits: Amazon

At $40, the Pop undercuts the Dot by $10 — not an insignificant portion of the products’ overall cost. Though the company denies that the product will replace Dot and/or Dot With Clock. The Pop does, however, seem destined to cannibalize its market share. In terms of form factor, it appears as though someone bisected a Dot and propped up the directional speaker. It’s available in black, white, lavender and teal (the latter of which are both new for the line).

Between the price, form factor and colors, it seems as though Amazon is targeting a younger audience than the standard Echo fare — albeit one a bit more mature than the new Echo Show 5 Kids. Teenagers look like the primary demo, along with college kids moving into the dorm. It could be the cheapest self-contained entry point into a major smart home ecosystem. The familiar Echo Dot blue light ring has been truncated, sitting just above the speaker mesh to let you know when Alexa is listening. The Pop runs on Amazon’s own AZ2 chip and features built-in Eero support, which lets it double as a range extender.

Image Credits: Amazon

The Pop was announced this morning alongside a spate of product refreshes, including updates to Echo Show 5, Echo Buds and Echo Auto. Sarah spoke to SVP Rohit Prasad about Alexa’s future, in light of a recent round of 2,000 people from the company’s device’s division. “Contrary to some of the things written, it was very small in context,” the exec said. “In terms of our roadmap and our conviction, Alexa is one of the biggest investments at Amazon and our conviction has only grown — especially in this time of how exciting AI is and what can be a quantitatively different, better, and more useful Alexa for our customers.”

Generative AI was, naturally, top of mind, with all of the recent hype around systems like ChatGPT and Bard. Amazon has already discussed its own work in the space, and its easy to see how conversational prompts can push Alexa in the future. But it also arrives at a point when the smart assistant appears to be struggling from the outside.  “I’m very optimistic that…the AI advances will be massive, but we are actually contributing to the Amazon businesses,” Prasad adds. “And I believe that Alexa is well on its trajectory to be that personal AI — which will also be a successful business for us.”

Amazon undercuts the Echo Dot with the $40 Echo Pop by Brian Heater originally published on TechCrunch