Is Amazon Alexa Living up to Expectations?

Article by: Lauren Stair

In this video, John and Heather look critically at Amazon Alexa to unpack the gap between expectations and reality. From issues with accuracy and privacy to limitations in functionality, the two industry experts explore whether Alexa is meeting expectations.


👉 What’s going on with Amazon Alexa?

00:00:00 John Ghiorso
One of the big disappointments for me from, you know, a practitioner but enthusiast in this industry has been Alexa and the raw AI computing power behind it.

00:00:17 John Ghiorso
I feel the same way about Alexa that I feel about self-driving cars, which is like, you know.

00:00:22 John Ghiorso
Five years ago, I genuinely thought I would have a car driving, right?

00:00:26 John Ghiorso
Yeah, so I’m very mad that I had to drive myself into the office today.

00:00:29 John Ghiorso
No, but seriously just from like a fan of technology.

00:00:34 John Ghiorso
By the way, there were a lot of really smart people that said yes, by the year 2022, you’ll have a self-driving car.

00:00:40 John Ghiorso
I think, similarly, the idea with Alexa was, by now it would be a full-fledged personal assistant, and you know, it’s sort of this;

00:00:48 John Ghiorso
This is just a random tangent, really;


👉 Artificial Intelligence Computing Power

00:00:50 John Ghiorso
But it’s sort of disappointing that, you know, you have things like chat GPT, which everyone is talking about and messing around with right now.

00:00:58 John Ghiorso
That seems to have really a fundamentally better AI engine than this platform that 10,000 engineers have been working on for 10 years. So that you know, that’s one of the kind of, we’ll see where that goes.

00:01:13 Heather Geurkink
It’s not that, John.

00:01:15 Heather Geurkink
They could throw the investment, would throw the investment at.

00:01:19 Heather Geurkink
They have the best engineers in the business who can deliver a world-class AI experience.


👉 Amazon’s focus on customer obsession

00:01:25 Heather Geurkink
I think the big thing to think about there is going back to the customer.

00:01:29 Heather Geurkink
And Amazon is very careful. Everything is done with a reputational lens, and there has been a backlash, and this, sort of, very underlying customer sentiment that, does the consumer want a personal assistant that ingrained in their life?

00:01:45 Heather Geurkink
I mean, I think about my sister and her partner.

00:01:49 Heather Geurkink
And they sort of say like, nope, we don’t want the Alexa. We turn it off. We have it muted. I don’t want to be tracked.

00:01:55 Heather Geurkink
I don’t want to be followed, and I think they’re very careful to toe that line.

00:01:58 John Ghiorso
Yeah. Well, and I do think you’re right that you know, chat GBT will, 40% at a time.

00:02:05 John Ghiorso
Like you know, one out of three times, be wrong or say something stupid or whatever.


👉 Battling PR issues

00:02:10 John Ghiorso
Amazon has Alexa do one thing for one customer out of literally millions of interactions, that is wrong or offensive or, you know, and all of a sudden it’s, you know, in the Wall Street Journal.

00:02:23 John Ghiorso
So it’s a fair point that it is similar to the, you know, self-driving car analogy.

00:02:29 John Ghiorso
You know, you can’t have a self-driving car that’s 99% accurate.

00:02:34 Heather Geurkink
I mean we saw what happened with Lyft.

00:02:36 John Ghiorso
Or even 99.9 or right.

00:02:39 Heather Geurkink
And Uber, they got raked over the coals for this one tiny instance?

00:02:43 John Ghiorso
Yeah, yeah.

00:02:44 Heather Geurkink
I have a friend who worked on that business, and it collapsed.

00:02:45 John Ghiorso
Yeah, yeah, so you know, in the self-driving car analogy, someone may actually die.

00:02:50 John Ghiorso
But in the Amazon analogy, it could be a major PR issue.

00:02:55 John Ghiorso
That’s interesting.


👉 Alexa capabilities and potential

00:02:55 John Ghiorso
There’s also been, you know, I think they’ve tested more of this conversational stuff, and I think for most people, it’s sort of annoying.

00:03:01 John Ghiorso
It’s like, no, I just wanted to ask the weather. I don’t have a follow-up. Stop asking me to follow up.

00:03:06 John Ghiorso
That being said, I just feel like there’s so much more they could do, so you know, they recently made cuts on that team.

00:03:11 Heather Geurkink
I know.

00:03:11 John Ghiorso
It seems like it’s on the backburner a little.

00:03:13 Heather Geurkink
Calling it a failure.

00:03:15 Heather Geurkink
Yeah, it’s interesting.


👉 Amazon wins by playing the long game

00:03:18 John Ghiorso
I’m hopeful that what they’re doing is just being realistic and that it’s like, they’re still,

00:03:25 John Ghiorso
It’s still an important initiative, but they’re just expanding the timeline.

00:03:28 John Ghiorso
Going like, you know it’s okay if this takes another five or ten years to get where we want it to go.

00:03:34 John Ghiorso
So they’re just kind of slowing down the rate of investment.

00:03:37 John Ghiorso
Because they’re certainly not abandoning it.


👉 A Bezos invention

00:03:39 John Ghiorso
You know, it’s interesting. It was also, it really was a Bezos invention.

00:03:44 Heather Geurkink
It was.

00:03:45 John Ghiorso
And he’s not there. And I wonder if, you know, they’re.

00:03:47 Heather Geurkink
Think about it this way.

00:03:49 Heather Geurkink
The core tech; a lot of what Amazon does is they innovate with the idea that the technologies that they’re building have multiple applications.

00:03:58 Heather Geurkink
And so I think that the core functioning of the AI capability can use elsewhere within the business.

00:04:04 John Ghiorso
Yes, interesting yes.

00:04:05 Heather Geurkink
For efficiency for streamlining.


👉 The future of Amazon Alexa

00:04:08 Heather Geurkink
And so, you’re right. Like I honestly, this is an area where I can’t see the future, and I don’t know anything about it.

00:04:14 Heather Geurkink
But I don’t know what they’re going to do with Alexa.

00:04:16 John Ghiorso
I don’t know if they know, to be honest.

00:04:17 Heather Geurkink
So much more to do, but I think they’re kind of just like right now…


👉 Amazon’s biggest revenue drivers: AWS, advertising, and streaming

00:04:21 Heather Geurkink
They’re downsizing to focus on the biggest drivers: AWS, advertising, and streaming.

00:04:28 Heather Geurkink
And bolstering everything else in the process.

00:04:30 John Ghiorso
Yeah, yeah.

00:04:31 Heather Geurkink
And we’re hearing that through their earnings reports as well.

00:04:33 Heather Geurkink
That those are the focus areas.

00:04:45 John Ghiorso

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