Nat Versus the Volcano: Can an AI Investor Solve an Ancient Mystery from the Ashes of Vesuvius?Read more

Amazon Faces Moment of Truth on Alexa as ChatGPT Steals Its Thunder

Five years ago, Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant had it all: high-profile partnerships, booming device sales and plenty of industry and pop culture buzz. But ChatGPT has grabbed the spotlight in AI at a delicate moment when critics say Alexa has stagnated.

Art by Mike Sullivan
Art by Mike Sullivan
March 22, 2023 6:05 AM PDT

At the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, Amazon announced one of its biggest partnerships yet to help make its Alexa voice assistant ubiquitous: a deal with Toyota to integrate Alexa into the auto giant’s cars. “Our vision for Alexa is that she should be everywhere a customer might need her—at home, in the office, on phones—and in cars,” an Amazon executive gushed in a press release about the agreement.

Toyota doesn’t seem to need Alexa anymore. The automaker has dropped support for an app that allowed users to operate Alexa in their cars via smartphones in 2023 editions of several of its most popular models, including the RAV4, Prius and Corolla. And according to a person close to the automaker, Toyota plans to phase out Alexa integration from the rest of its lineup in the coming years. The automaker is now focused on improving an in-house voice assistant it launched last year and is considering integrating ChatGPT, the chatbot created by OpenAI, into it, the person said.

Toyota’s breakup with Alexa, details of which haven’t been reported previously, is a potent symbol of the challenges facing Amazon’s once-mighty voice assistant. Despite selling hundreds of millions of digital devices with the assistant built into them, Alexa has fallen short of Amazon’s goal of creating the next big platform in tech. Even onetime believers in the technology say innovation has stalled on Alexa, a sentiment that has grown since ChatGPT set the tech world ablaze when it came out in November.

Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
OpenAI's Greg Brockman (left) and Google's Demis Hassabis (right). Photos by Getty.
AI Agenda google ai
OpenAI Hustles to Beat Google to Launch ‘Multimodal’ LLM
As fall approaches, Google and OpenAI are locked in a good ol’ fashioned software race, aiming to launch the next generation of large-language models: multimodal.
From left, a Google TPU, Broadcom CEO Hock Tan and Google Cloud chief Thomas Kurian. Photos via Getty, Google and YouTube.
Exclusive google semiconductors
To Reduce AI Costs, Google Wants to Ditch Broadcom as Its TPU Server Chip Supplier
Google executives have extensively discussed dropping Broadcom as a supplier of artificial intelligence chips as early as 2027, according to a person with direct knowledge of the effort.
Flexport founder Ryan Petersen. Photos via Getty and Flexport.
Can Ryan Petersen Fix Flexport?
Ryan Petersen was getting antsy. This March, Petersen had handed over the CEO job at Flexport—the logistics company he’d founded a decade earlier, which had ballooned to an $8 billion valuation in 2022—to veteran Amazon executive Dave Clark.
Photo via Midjourney.
AI Agenda startups ai
The Rise of Startups That Help Other Startups Evaluate LLMs
All but a handful of artificial intelligence startups typically fall into one of two camps. The first group uses a single large-language model, typically OpenAI’s GPT-4, to power their applications.
Photos via Eiso Kant (left) and YouTube/VMWare Tanzu (right)
AI Agenda startups ai
How GitHub Copilot’s Co-Creator Raised $126 Million to Compete with His Former Employer
Recent interest in artificial intelligence has focused on large-language models that aim to do everything from writing Shakespearean poetry to solving math riddles.
Art by Mike Sullivan
entertainment media/telecom
Disney-Charter Deal Could Prompt More Cable TV-Streaming Bundles
Last week, Charter Communications, the No. 2 cable provider, and Walt Disney Co. cut a deal to include Disney streaming services, such as Disney+ and a new ESPN service still in the works, with Charter’s cable television packages.