Amazon Alexa Hiring Exceeds All Open Positions at Google. Does it Matter?
John Koetsier has a new article in Forbes that offers insight into the level of investment that Amazon is making in Alexa compared to Google. He cites a recent Citi report in saying:
“Amazon is hiring 1,147 people for its Alexa business unit alone, says Citi Research in a new report. That’s more than Google is hiring for product and technical roles across the entire Alphabet conglomerate, including YouTube, Waymo, Google Fiber, and — of course — the main money maker in the Alphabet empire: the original Google.”
Do you think that is a lot of open positions? Well, the number has risen since the Citi report was released. Today, the number appears to be 1,498. Dave Kemp from Oaktree Products conveniently compiled some stats from 2016-17 on Alexa staffing and hiring to put this in a broader perspective.
The number of Amazon employees working in the Alexa division #VoiceFirst:
-May 2016: Bezos: “1,000 people” http://t.co/T8jpL5ddW4
-September 2017: “5,000+ people” http://t.co/kEr4mXUcUd
-Today (see below tweet): 1,147 job openings http://t.co/V1v8FCAN43
— Dave Kemp (@Oaktree_Dave) March 13, 2018
Data Says More About Amazon Than Google
These data points are important in that they show Amazon’s commitment to Alexa. This support is not surprising given that Echo products are the top selling electronics items on Amazon.com and were the top holiday selling items in 2016 and 2017. In addition, several reports show that smart speaker owners both spend more in online ordering and engage in voice commerce.
Amazon has been hiring aggressively for Alexa for several years now. In June 2017, Voicebot reported there were 1,127 listed job opening for Alexa of which 1,108 were technical positions. It appears the total number has climbed by over 350 positions, but it is unclear how many of those vacant positions last June were filled and how many of the 1,498 current openings are net new since that time. Regardless, one conclusion is clear. Amazon has a lot of employees dedicated to Alexa and plans to hire many more.
Google Has Engineers Everywhere That Contribute to Assistant
The lack of hiring for Google is not necessarily an indication of a lower level of commitment. Google draws from many disciplines and departments to support Google Assistant. Technology from DeepMind has improved Google Assistant’s speech recognition and synthetic speech. Engineers in Google Search clearly contribute to Google Assistant’s prowess in answering questions. Google Maps services contribute to Google Assistant’s ability to assess traffic and travel times. Android OS teams are available to help bring Google Assistant into mobile use cases. The team at Dialogflow provides tools to help developers build voice apps.
Google already has tremendous infrastructure that supports Google Assistant and predates Alexa. Amazon doesn’t have many of these services, but when they are added, they wind up under the Alexa umbrella. So, looking at headcount specific to the voice assistant is not a great comparison. Google’s headcount supporting Google Assistant services are not concentrated in one division or product group. With that said, the Citi report says Google has fewer technical positions open across its entire business. The report indicates that might be good for margins, but we might conclude it suggests lower growth in technical investment.
Google is Not Starving Assistant for Resources
Amazon must outpace Google in Alexa hiring because it is building an entirely new business whereas Google is simply augmenting its existing services. If you look at new feature introductions, language support and device support, you could easily conclude that Google Assistant is maintaining a commensurate or faster pace than Alexa in terms of innovation. However, one area that I often hear about in terms of disparity is in the number of staff dedicated to supporting development partners, agencies and service providers. Amazon appears to have many more people focused on Alexa evangelism and business development. That might be an area where Google could benefit from opening a few new positions.
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