It has been eight years since Amazon introduced the world to Alexa (the voice-activated home automation unit), but now the project, and the product's future, is uncertain.
Even though Amazon has always sold the Alexa at cost to ensure a strong consumer demand, and managed to convince a lot of people to buy one; nobody really used the Alexa in the way that Amazon had hoped that they would.
Instead of buying things from Amazon by asking Alexa to place the order instead of having to push things into a website, owners instead used the device to 'ask about the weather' and 'increase the volume of the Def Leppard track currently playing'.
The imagined commercial model for the device failed, miserably, and now Amazon are getting rid of a lot of the staff who are employed in the crisis-hit 'digital' division which manages Alexa development and sales.
Maybe it's a pure coincidence, but there seems to be a lot of recent bad news hitting the 'home technology' industry.
Peloton's business model (which we have written about previously) appears to be increasingly questionable, Lululemon's Mirror is also not creating the value that it once promised to do and now Alexa's a flop?
The issue, if for a moment we consider that this may be the beginning of the end for these kind of domestic automation devices, is not with the technology itself, but rather the commercial model that underpins them.
Peloton's problem is that people are reluctant to sign into a long-term subscription contract for the exercise content they offer; same goes for Lululemon's Mirror. Committing to just one channel of exercise when there is so much alternate choice available seems like a stretch - and as for Alexa, well, even American's aren't consumerist enough to consistently order groceries by simply talking to a machine.
These technologies are useful and work nicely as part of a varied and diverse channel portfolio, but the business model is premised on the assumption that you as the user will forgo all other options in favour of 'the one'. That's obviously nonsense, which is why these things are failing.
We might be a little further away from 'homes filled with robots' than we were just a few years ago.
After the initial novelty factor has worn off, what you are left with is a value proposition that just isn't strong enough to justify continued support for the system.
An Alexa device gathering dust in the corner of a room - one wonders if perhaps we have seen 'peak device'? Are most ordinary people over our obsession with gadgets and tech?