Amazon to stop paying Alexa Skill developers

Back when Alexa was the hottest tech coming out of Amazon, there was a large push to get developers onboard to make Alexa Skills, which served as apps for the voice assistant. Part of that push was the launch of the Alexa Developer Rewards Program in 2017 which directly paid developers of popular Alexa Skills. That rewards programming is now coming to an end at the end of June, as reported by Engadget. With over 160,000 skills available, Amazon says “these older programs have simply run their course.” Developers will now have to resort to accepting in-skill payments directly from their users to earn income from a free Alexa Skill.

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Fire TV Channels are now available on Echo Show devices

I’m not entirely sure when it started rolling out, but Fire TV Channels content can now be found on Echo Show devices, as Cord Cutters News has discovered. Amazon promised Fire TV Channels would come to its Echo Show 5, 8, 10, and 15 back in September and now you can stream the free ad-supported content on its smart displays. You can load the built-in app by saying “Open Fire TV Channels.” Recommended content will begin streaming immediately and you can tap the “All Channels” button on the screen to see genres and categories that you can pick from.

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Amazon lays off ‘several hundred’ people working on Alexa

Amazon has begun laying off ‘several hundred’ workers in its Alexa division according to an internal memo sent to employees last week from Daniel Rausch, Vice President of Alexa and Fire TV. This comes exactly one year after Amazon cut approximately 10,000 jobs in its Devices & Services division where many of the layoffs also involved Alexa-related positions. The memo states that these new cuts are at least partially for “maximizing our resources and efforts focused on generative AI.” The memo continues to say that they “remain very optimistic about the future of Alexa” and that “Alexa remains an incredibly important part of our business.”

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Amazon to cut off IFTTT’s access to Alexa next week

IFTTT, the automation platform that helps to connect different services and devices together, has revealed that Amazon is killing the link between Alexa and IFTTT on October 31st. This means that all IFTTT applets that can be started through “Alexa, trigger…” or other commands will stop working through Alexa devices at the end of the month. Applets with any Alexa components will also stop working. It’s a shame because Alexa and IFTTT have been integrated together for a very long time and, through that integration, have allowed for many things without voice control to be used through smart speakers.

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Amazon confirms ex-Microsoft Windows & Surface chief Panos Panay will lead all of Amazon Devices & Services

As expected from rumors last week, former Windows and Surface chief Panos Panay is leaving Microsoft to replace Dave Limp as the head of Amazon devices. Amazon confirmed the change in leadership this morning, stating that Panay will start at the end of October and Limp will stick around for a couple of months to help with the transition. Dave Limp will then take over as the new CEO of Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company. As the head of Amazon Devices & Services, Panay will be in charge of Fire TV, Fire Tablets, Alexa, Echo, Kindle, Ring, Blink, Eero, Luna, the Amazon Appstore, and much more.

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Fire TVs are getting vastly improved AI voice search with impressive conversational filtering and recommendations

At Amazon’s big new devices event this morning, there was a lot of focus on the new hardware being released, like the new 4K Fire TV Sticks and the new Fire TV Soundbar, but Amazon also revealed some interesting new software improvements coming to Fire TV devices. The most impressive demo was the new conversational AI-based improvements to Alexa voice searches for Fire TVs. Read more ›

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Former Microsoft Windows & Surface chief reportedly taking over Amazon’s hardware products

Amazon’s SVP of devices and services, Dave Limp, announced his retirement last month after over 13 years with the company. According to a report from Bloomberg, his replacement will be Panos Panay, who just announced this morning that he will be leaving Microsoft as its chief product officer. Panay, who has been with Microsoft for nearly 20 years, led the development of Windows and the company’s Surface line of devices. As Limp’s replacement, Panay would be in charge of Amazon’s massive line of devices and services, which includes Fire TV, Echo, Fire Tablet, Kindle, Ring, Blink, Eero, Alexa, Luna, Fire OS, the Amazon Appstore, and much more.

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Amazon Alexa and Fire TVs are now run by the same VP for the first time

If you’ve ever felt like there was a bit of a divide between Amazon’s Echo and Alexa products and other Amazon devices, like Fire TVs and Fire Tablets, that’s because they have always been headed by different executives within Amazon. The two groups of Amazon devices have always been more like cousins with related parents than siblings of the same parent. That has now changed, I believe for the first time, because Daniel Rausch, who is Amazon’s head of entertainment devices which includes Fire TV, Fire Tablets, Kindles, and more, has recently been put in charge of Alexa as well. Read more ›

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New JBL smart speakers are the first to have both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant simultaneously

Harman has announced a series of new JBL smart speakers that have a very unique capability. While there have been smart speakers that offer a choice of using Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Assistant, namely from Sonos, the trio of new JBL smart speakers announced today are the first to provide access to both voice assistants simultaneously. This means you can, for example, set a timer using Alexa and then ask Google Assistant to stop the timer, or start playing music with Google Assistant and have that music be lowered in volume when an alarm set by Alexa goes off. Read more ›

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Head of all Amazon devices to retire in the coming months after 13 years with the company

Amazon has revealed that Dave Limp, the Senior Vice President of Amazon Devices and Services, will be retiring later this year after over 13 years with the company. Limp is the head honcho when it comes to Amazon devices, including Fire TVs, Echos, Fire Tablets, Kindles, and much more. All the different Amazon services, like Alexa, the Amazon Appstore, and Luna fall under his control as well. It sounds like Limp will stick around to host his annual new devices event in September. His successor will be announced in the coming weeks.

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