|Amazon Is Becoming an AI Chip Maker, Speeding Alexa Responses|
Amazon.com is developing a chip designed for artificial intelligence to work on the Echo and other hardware powered by Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant, says a person familiar with Amazon’s plans. The chip should allow Alexa-powered devices to respond more quickly to commands, by allowing more data processing to be handled on the device than in the cloud.
The effort makes Amazon the latest major tech company, after Google and Apple, to design its own AI chips, in hopes of differentiating their products from those of rivals. That strategy has major ramifications for chip companies like Intel and Nvidia, which are now competing with companies that previously have been their customers.
The moves by Amazon and Google harken back to tech’s earlier days, when companies like IBM and Sun Microsystems used to do everything like making their own chips and software. For the past few years, Apple has also been pushing more aggressively into making its own chips to differentiate from the competition and lessen its reliance on outside partners.
Amazon has quietly developed chip-making capabilities over the past two years, through both acquisitions and hiring. It started in 2015 through the $350 million acquisition of Annapurna Labs, a secretive Israeli chipmaker. Amazon said nothing about its plans for Annapurna at the time, although Annapurna said in 2016 it was making a line of chips, called Alpine, for data storage gear, WiFi routers, smart home devices and media streaming devices.
But Annapurna is now working on the AI chip for Alexa-powered devices, said the person familiar with Amazon’s plans.
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