Longtime Amazon executive Mike George, who has overseen developments for the Echo smart speaker device and the sector-defining Alexa virtual assistant since January 2016, has left the e-commerce giant, listing a farewell in binary code on his LinkedIn profile that translates to "Retired from Amazon after ~20 years. Loved every minute. Not checking out, just changing the game :-)" GeekWire reports.
Tom Taylor, a senior vice president at Amazon who has been running the Amazon Payments and Fulfillment By Amazon businesses, has replaced George in leading the Echo and Alexa efforts, according to GeekWire, which wrote that it confirmed the changes indepedently from Amazon, which did not comment on the news.
George joined Amazon in 1998, serving in a variety of roles ranging from general manager of Seller Platform Integration to vice president of Global Payments Services, and later vice president of Apps, Games and Cloud Drive, among other roles.
It says something about the Amazon culture that George remained with the company for 19 years. In 1998, it was clear that Amazon was a market disruptor — for booksellers. It’s retail ambitions already were broadening, but there was no hint that Amazon would become a singular force, defining the e-commerce model, disrupting the entire brick-and-mortar retail market and creating game-changing solutions in e-reading and publishing; logistics and fulfillment; customer loyalty programs; conversational commerce and a host of other areas.
George was at Amazon for all of that, and even for the beginning of Amazon's big push in brick-and-mortar retail. Under his leadership, Amazon Alexa devices have become mega-hits that have dominated the growing voice assistance market. About 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month this year, according to a recent forecast from eMarketer, and Amazon’s Echo speaker will attract 70.6% of users, while Google Home will garner just 23.8% and smaller players, such as Lenovo, LG, Harmon Kardon and Mattel will make up the rest of the market.
That said, Echo and Alexa remain in their infancy. As the company reportedly works on a next-generation Echo, which is anticipated to have increased tech specs and a new exterior design, as well as other device variations and Alexa skill sets, Taylor will be tested for his ability to keep Amazon ahead of the curve on both the device and the virtual assistant that lives inside of it.