“The era of voice istants is turning into a monumental flop”

During the Amazon exhibition at CES in Las Vegas (United States), January 11, 2019.

Jgoose ! Chatting with your robot will soon be possible. On Wednesday, September 20, Amazon presented the latest version of its Alexa voice istant equipped with a new artificial brain. “This will bring an entirely new experience”promised David Limp, the boss of the materials division.

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It would indeed be time to repeat the experience, because the era of voice istants, supposed to revolutionize the digital world by sending keyboards and mice to oblivion, is turning into a monumental flop. Google, Apple, Microsoft, which had all embarked on this promising path, are discreetly moving away from it to fly in front of the new digital madness, artificial intelligence.

Questioned by the Financial Timesthe boss of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, full of his pride in being at the forefront of the new fight thanks to his acquisition of ChatGPT, now ensures that voice istants “are as stupid as stone” and don’t work.

A popular success

David Limp must therefore row against the tide to demonstrate the opposite. However, Alexa is objectively a popular success. It is present in nearly 20% of American homes and more than 130,000 products are now compatible with the small speaker which can therefore control them. But the time for euphoria is no longer over. Witness the latest wave of mive layoffs at Amazon, nearly 28,000 people, targeted in particular the hardware division of which Alexa is the flagship product. Three reasons explain this disappointment.

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At first the uses remained crude. Jeff Bezos dreamed of a domestic servant capable of running errands, recommending the best movies, making coffee in the morning. In the reality of homes, it is mainly used to turn on the light and turn on the radio. A luxury switch. In addition, the little round ball, whether it is labeled Amazon or Google, quickly proved to be intrusive, since it listens to conversations and reacts to certain keywords. This constant listening has closed the door to companies that do not like curious people.

Finally, as a consequence of these two observations, the economic model has never been there. It was supposed to boost online sales, but this has never been proven. This technology sold at cost price, hence its success, has become a pit. Amazon’s hardware division would have lost, according to Wall Street Journal, up to 5 billion dollars (4.68 billion euros) in certain years. Moreover, David Limp has scheduled his retirement for the end of the year.

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