Amazon’s secretive “Lab126” hardware R&D facility in Silicon Valley has reportedly given notice to “dozens” of engineers who worked on the company’s poorly received Fire Phone. The apparent shake-up suggests the company may have given up on the idea of a Fire Phone sequel, or at the very least put it on the back burner.
Sources with knowledge of the matter told the Wall Street Journal the lay-offs were the first in the unit’s 11-year history, and come as the e-commerce giant reassesses a number of its current projects, taking the ax to some while pushing ahead with others. Ditched or scaled back projects are thought to include a huge 14-inch tablet that was being developed under the codename Project Cairo, a “smart stylus” going by the name of Nitro that transformed scribbled notes into a digital shopping list, and a projector called Shimmer.
Engineers are, however, continuing to work on a “high-end computer for the kitchen.” Called Kabinet, the platform is expected to function as a hub for connected homes, responding to voice commands much in the same way as its recently launched Echo speaker-cum-virtual-assistant. They’re also thought to be working on a tablet that offers 3D images without the need for special specs, as well as a Kindle e-reader battery that can last a whopping two years on a single charge.
Amazon’s apparent move to cut its R&D workforce and halt projects is thought to reflect a new company strategy to rein in development costs in a bid to boost profits, according to the Journal. This change in approach appears to be working for the Seattle-based firm. Last month, for instance, it reported a $92 million second-quarter profit, a massive turnaround from the $126 million loss posted 12 months earlier.
Many of Amazon’s most popular hardware products have come out of its Lab126 facility, including its range of Kindle e-readers and tablets, while last year was a particularly productive one for the unit, with engineers pushing out around 10 different devices. However, for the immediate future at least, it seems things will be a little quieter.