Amazon plans to launch a subscription model for its voice assistant Alexa later this year, but testing issues may push back the release date.
Internal documents suggest Amazon will call the service Alexa Plus, which could be bundled with Prime. Business Insider reported that it will be more conversational and offer personalized responses.
Around 15,000 customers have been testing the new version of the voice technology under the codename Remarkable Alexa. The quality of the new Alexa's answers faces challenges, falling short of expectations. It often shares inaccurate information, according to the report.
The initial launch data had been scheduled for some time around June 30, but initial tests that have found it may not work as intended could delay the rollout.
Amazon's Alexa voice assistant had early success, but the company struggled to create a lucrative business model, which led to layoffs and cost cutting decisions. The move represents Amazon’s latest attempt to revive the voice technology as a subscription service as Google and Apple move forward with more users.
Google Assistant in the U.S. is estimated to have 88.8 million users this year, followed by Apple Siri's 84.2 million, according to Insider Intelligence. Alexa is the third-largest, with 75.6 million users.
Subscription have become a big revenue driver for a variety of companies, from software to apps. Microsoft on Tuesday added Copilot Pro service, formally Bing Chat, to its subscriptions for consumers and small businesses.
Amazon built the original Alexa on a natural language model that kept context history and personalization signals distributed across different parts. The next Alexa has a more centralized structure, where language understanding and response generation use one language model for better reasoning across a complex set of data and interaction history.
Subscribers have an option to use the service across Word, Excel, and Outlook for the same annual price that it would cost to buy four Starbuck’s venti iced lattes. Swap that regular milk latte for almond milk, and it will cost several dollars more.
Users also have access to OpenAI’s GPT-4 Turbo model for faster performance, and with the OpenAI partnership, there are plans to roll out a feature where users can build a custom Copilot GPT. The Copilot mobile app is available for Android and iOS. It’s also being added to the Microsoft 360 mobile app for Android and iOS for those with a Microsoft account. The release is similar to the 28 chatbots Meta announced in September, each with their own persona that serves different purposes.