Case Detail

Case Summary

Alexa: A Pandora's Box of Risks

Case Number: 5-219-251, Year Published: 2019

HBS Number: KE1143

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Key Concepts

Corporate strategy, information technology, innovation, regulation, risk management, service management, e-commerce, ethics, society and business relations, technology management


Launched in 2014, Amazon's Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers led the category's rapid adoption by households and enabled the penetration of artificial intelligence (AI) voice assistants into the everyday lives of millions of people. By 2019, Alexa—the virtual brains behind Amazon's smart speakers—was able to play music, create reminders, get weather reports, control lights and other home appliances, shop, and do much more in response to voice commands. Amazon had developed significant new capabilities for Alexa, developed an entire ecosysgtem around it, expanded Alexa's user base to more than 100 million users, and made significant progress in monetizing its digital voice assistant. However, Alexa's progress also created new challenges for Amazon, its Alexa-enabled customers, and society at large. Amazon needed to identify and address these challenges in order to encourage continued consumer acceptance and preclude detrimental government or regulatory action.

Learning Objectives

After reading and analyzing the case, students will be able to:identify consumer benefits and risks of an information product; determine the risks of an information product to the company that sells and supports it; develop options to manage risks and analyze the benefits and drawbacks of each; describe the importance of privacy, particularly related to data custodianship, data confidentiality, and cyber safety.

Number of Pages: 15

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Strategy

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: United States

Industry: Technology

Organization Name: Amazon

Organization Size: Large