Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo smart speaker was the shopping site’s biggest-selling item during the 2017 holiday season, and a few months ago data suggested Echo smart speakers are now selling in greater numbers than similar devices made by Google and Apple.
Aiming to build on its success with Alexa and Echo, and to make further advances with artificial intelligence technology, Amazon has built a team of 10,000 employees — that’s ten thousand — dedicated to developing the platform.
The revelation came on Tuesday, November 13 via Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon devices, during an event at a Wall Street Journal tech event in California.
Just as remarkable is the speed at which the team has grown, doubling in size in the space of only 12 months as Amazon ramps up efforts to increase Alexa’s smarts and design better speakers.
In the last year, Amazon has launched a number of new Echo speakers, as well as the Echo Auto device that puts the digital assistant inside cars. It also recently unveiled the AmazonBasics Microwave that lets Alexa take care of your cooking (Echo speaker required).
An increasing number of third-party gadget makers have also been producing smart devices that incorporate Alexa, while developers are continuing to create new skills that allow Alexa to carry out a growing range of tasks.
Of course, some people are still wary of having an always-listening device in their home, and a story earlier this year that saw Alexa inadvertently send the recording of a private conversation to a third party certainly won’t have helped dispel such privacy concerns.
But with the holiday season fast approaching, Amazon is expecting to see sales of its smart speakers go through the roof. According to the Journal, the company has already sold more than 45 million Echo devices globally since the first one landed in 2014, giving it just over 50 percent of the smart-speaker market.
Rival offerings include Google’s range of Home speakers, and the Apple HomePod, which come with their own digital assistants. You can read here about how the three competing platforms stack up.
News of Amazon’s efforts to make a success of the Echo and Alexa came on the same day that the company announced plans to increase its general workforce by 50,000 at two new hubs announced this week for Long Island, New York and Arlington, Virginia. Globally, the ecommerce giant employs 600,000, marking a year-on-year increase of some 13 percent.