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Amazon Employees Debate Idea of Charging for Alexa

Connected Commerce

Would you pay a subscription to use Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa?

Inside the company, that’s apparently the subject of some debate. A recent Business Insider report — citing internal documents and sources familiar with the matter — says that Amazon is reconfiguring Alexa as it gets ready to roll out a paid subscription plan later this year. 

However, the upgraded assistant is leading to some internal friction, the report said, and could delay the launch.

Sources told Business Insider the company is aiming for a June 30 launch and had tested the so-called “Remarkable Alexa,” as the new technology is referred to, with 15,000 customers.

However, the quality of the answers this new Alexa was providing has not been up to par, the report said, often giving inaccurate information or unnecessarily long answers. 

In addition, testing found that the company needed to improve Alexa’s ability to answer requests that require it to engage multiple services, such as switching on lights and music at the same time.

The report also notes “tension over whether people will pay for Alexa or not,” one anonymous Amazon employee told Business Insider.

PYMNTS has contacted Amazon for comment but has not yet received a reply.

And despite the apparent doubts at Amazon, research has shown that more than half of consumers would be willing to pay for an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered voice assistant.

It might, however, depend on the task, as findings from the PYMNTS Intelligence report “How Consumers Want to Live in the Voice Economy” show.

“According to the study, while consumers are more comfortable using voice technology for simpler and low-risk tasks such as playing music, setting alarms, and asking for directions, concerns about data errors and security breaches that could compromise sensitive information hinder the use of voice technology for more complex tasks,” PYMNTS wrote in October.

This includes things where personal or financial information is in play, like setting up a bank account or scheduling doctor’s appointments, something that a respective 11% and 13% of consumers would want to use voice technology for.

But in spite of these reservations, there is an expectation that as voice technology evolves, consumers will gradually come to trust in its ability to carry out complex tasks with less risk.