Amazon to Discontinue $2,350 Astro Robots for Businesses 10 Months After Launch

Amazon is set to discontinue all Astro for Business robots on September 25, just ten months after their release. Initially launched as a security device for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) at a price of $2,350, the device is soon to join Amazon’s list of discontinued products.

Astro was first announced in September 2021 as a home robot, with this version still available only through a $1,600 invite-only preview. However, in November 2022, Amazon repurposed Astro for SMBs. According to GeekWire, Amazon recently informed employees and customers that the business version of Astro will stop functioning on September 25. In the email, Amazon assured customers that their personal data would be deleted from the device, and any recorded videos would remain accessible via the Ring app until the storage time expires or the Ring Protect subscription ends.

Amazon stated, “While we are proud of what we’ve built, we’ve made the decision to end support for Astro for Business to focus on making Astro the best robot for the home.” Consequently, Amazon will no longer charge users for Astro for Business subscriptions, such as Astro Secure and Ring Protect Pro. The company is offering refunds of $2,350 and an additional $300 Amazon credit to customers, along with refunds for any unused prepaid subscription fees.

Despite declining to disclose the number of units sold, it is evident that the discontinuation of Astro for Business marks the end of an expensive and complex technology within less than a year of its release. Amazon has not provided any alternative uses for the devices, and spokesperson Courtney Ramirez confirmed that Astro for Business cannot be repurposed as a home robot. The company encourages owners to recycle their Astro robots through the Amazon Recycling Program, with Amazon covering the associated costs.

Astro’s Challenging Journey

Amazon introduced Astro in late 2021, but it remains unavailable to the general public as of 2024. The pivot to SMBs seemed promising, with the robot capable of autonomously patrolling spaces up to 5,000 square feet, featuring an HD periscope, night vision, and Alexa control. However, since its release, Amazon has faced financial challenges with Alexa and significant layoffs in the devices and services division. The decision to discontinue Astro for Business will not result in layoffs, as employees will transition to working on the home version.

Future Prospects for Astro

Despite the setbacks, Amazon remains committed to releasing a home version of Astro. In May 2023, an Amazon representative highlighted the potential of integrating generative AI with Astro. The company hopes to eventually launch Astro with a generative AI version of Alexa, potentially accompanied by a subscription fee.

However, the extended development period, involving over 800 people and lasting more than two and a half years, coupled with the sudden discontinuation of the business version, raises concerns about the viability of a consumer version. Early adopters of the home version might face similar disappointments as those who invested in Astro for Business.

Amazon’s devices division is navigating a challenging period, aiming to make Alexa a competitive and profitable AI assistant. According to Reuters, Amazon senior management emphasized that 2024 is a crucial year for Alexa’s success. Should the paid tier fail to gain traction, analysts predict further reduced investment in Alexa.

Astro’s development and potential release face significant hurdles amidst a competitive market and Amazon’s history of discontinued products, including Just Walk Out, Amazon Glow, Fire Phone, Dash buttons, and the Amazon Smart Oven.