Amazon is laying off hundreds of people in Alexa division Inc. is cutting hundreds of employees in the division responsible for its voice-activated Alexa assistant, according to a memo sent to employees on Friday.

Daniel Rausch, an Amazon vice president who leads teams working on Alexa and the company’s Fire TV streaming franchise, said the company was “shifting some of our efforts to better align with our business priorities,” including targeting on building capabilities powered by generative artificial intelligence. “These changes are forcing us to abandon a number of initiatives, resulting in the elimination of hundreds of roles.”

Rausch did not specify which initiatives would be eliminated.

The Alexa voice assistant powers millions of Echo smart speakers and other devices in the home, but Amazon has struggled to expand the software’s functionality beyond relatively basic tasks like checking the weather and playing music. The rise of more capable chat tools like ChatGPT, powered by so-called generational AI, has highlighted the shortcomings of Amazon’s software. The company’s teams are racing to infuse Alexa with more of those capabilities.

The shares rose about 1% at 10:07 am in New York.

Amazon, which has avoided mass job cuts for most of its life, began its biggest layoffs about a year ago, ultimately eliminating 27,000 corporate jobs after a hiring spree during the pandemic that left the a company with too many people. The company increased the layoffs when it announced another 9,000 layoffs in March, which CEO Andy Jassy said would land in the cloud services division, human resources, advertising and live streaming service Twitch.

Since then, the company has continued to seek cost cuts, which sometimes leads to more layoffs. Amazon recently cut jobs in its music division and video games unit, and closed its physical clothing stores.

Rausch said employees in the United States and Canada who are to be laid off would be notified Seattle time Friday morning. Employees in India will find out next week, and cuts in other countries may follow different timelines to allow for consultations with employee groups or other factors.

Tech news site GeekWire reported the job cuts earlier.

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Updated: 17 November 2023, 10:07 PM IST

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