As the voice assistant becomes more intelligent thanks to generative AI, the company claims that it also becomes more costly to maintain and develop, and so a paid service is inevitable.
"Yes, we absolutely think that," said departing senior vice president of devices and services, Dave Limp, to Bloomberg.
"When you start using these a lot, the cost to train the model, and the cost for inference of the model in the cloud, is substantial."
However, you shouldn't expect to have to fork out too soon. Limp explained that there is a lot of work to do before Alexa becomes "superhuman" enough to be worth a monthly fee.
"Before we would start charging customers for this — and I believe we will — it has to be remarkable. It has to prove the utility that you're coming to expect from the 'superhuman' assistant."
There's also good news for those who won't want to pay, the existing Alexa experience won't be ditched entirely. It will remain free to use, with only the enhanced version being moved behind a paywall.
"We’ll talk to customers and learn from them, what they believe the value is. The Alexa that you know and love today is going to remain free," he added.
Limp – who is leaving Amazon soon to become CEO of Amazon founder's space company, Blue Origin – was host of the recent Amazon Devices event in Virginia and debuted Alexa's forthcoming generative AI skills for the first time.
He showed (after a couple of initial hiccups) that the new Alexa will be conversational and learn from each user. Eventually, you will be able to ask the assistant to do things just as you would a human.
You can watch the demo and the entire Amazon Devices launch event below.
Alexa isn't the only Amazon service set for additional subscription charges. It was also revealed recently that it plans to introduce advertising to its current Prime Video streaming service and charge an extra $2.99 per month (on top of Prime membership) for an ad-free tier.