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Amazon mulls charging for revamped AI version of Alexa

STORY: Sources familiar with Amazon’s plans say the company is giving its Alexa voice assistant an AI boost and could charge some users for the upgrade.

It plans to offer two conversational generative AI versions of the money-losing product, one of which could cost $5 a month.

With embedded AI, Amazon expects Alexa customers will ask it for shopping advice like which gloves and hat to purchase for a mountain climbing trip.

It would represent the first major overhaul of the voice assistant since it was introduced in 2014 along with the Echo line of speakers.

The sources who spoke to Reuters include eight current and former employees who worked on Alexa and who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss confidential projects.

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Amazon has pushed workers towards a deadline of August to prepare the newest version of Alexa, three of the sources said, noting that CEO Andy Jassy has taken a personal interest in seeing Alexa reinvigorated.

Some of the Amazon employees who have worked on the project say it represents a “desperate attempt” to revitalize the service, which has never turned a profit, and was caught flatfooted amid the rise of competitive generative AI products over the past 18 months.

An AI-powered version of the service demonstrated in September has yet to be released to the broader public while competitors have pushed out multiple updates to their chatbots.

The sources said Amazon's plans for Alexa including pricing and release dates could be altered or canceled depending on the progress of the project.