Amazon could turn Alexa into an AI chatbot — but you may need to pay for it

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (5th Gen)
(Image credit: Future)

There’s been talk of Amazon adding generative AI and conversational skills to Alexa for a while now, and those rumors don’t seem to be going away. A new CNBC report claims that Amazon will be unveiling a “souped-up” version of its voice assistant later this year — though you may need to pay if you want to have access. 

That’s right, sources claim that this subscription will not be part of Amazon Prime subscription. So unlike services like Prime Video or Amazon Music, which are bundled into the Prime plan, everyone may have to pay extra for Alexa 2.0. However it’s claimed that the price of this subscription hasn’t been finalized just yet.

Apparently the focus here is to ensure that Amazon can position itself with a product that “holds up amid the new AI competition” — presumably meaning ChatGPT, Google Gemini and every other chatbot hitting the market. 

Some of that pressure has come from CEO Andrew Jassy, who is reportedly “underwhelmed” with Alexa’s current capabilities. Apparently the current Alexa development team have also been concerned that Alexa could be seen as “an expensive alarm clock, weather machine and way to play Spotify music”. Which, admittedly, is exactly how I use Alexa and I bet I'm not the only one.

It’s claimed that Amazon’s new goal is to create artificial general intelligence, but considering that’s a very science fiction concept and unlikely to happen anytime soon they’re apparently working on smaller goals and building from there. 

The first goal is to create a chatbot with generative AI capabilities, using Amazon’s Titan large language model. This could be one of the first times Titan has been available to non-business users, and may potentially grant Alexa a whole string of new features in the process.

A picture showing the welcome greeting from Alexa on the Echo Show 8 (3rd Gen)

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Which all sounds well and good, even if it does feel like Amazon is playing catch up. Whether anyone will actually be willing to pay for this new generative AI-infused Alexa is another matter entirely. While premium subscriptions are nothing new in the chatbot world, there is still typically a free version anyone can use. 

It may be limited, but for the casual user it’s probably enough. At the very least it’s a tool that could prompt some people to pay for premium access and see how much better it is. So if Amazon is thinking about locking the new Alexa behind a paywall, it would be wise to offer some kind of free access as well. At the very least, free to Prime members. 

Obviously we’ll just have to be patient and wait to see how this all plays out in the future. Because right now we have no idea when the Alexa chatbot might launch, let alone all the details about pricing and features.

More from Tom's Guide

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.