Amazon keeps reminding us that it’s the most dangerous company in tech – Business Insider
There’s a great part at the beginning of the movie “Raiders
of the Lost Ark,” where, in a moment of triumph, the villainous
Belloq gloats to Indiana Jones that “again we see there is
nothing you can possess which I cannot take away.”
If I were
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, I would get this quote
inscribed on a wall plaque in my office.
That’s not to imply in any way that Bezos is a villain. But
to his competitors, the Amazon CEO and founder is proving
frustratingly adept at eating into their businesses.
Just this week, for instance:
The Information reported that Amazon Web Services is at
work on upgrading its productivity software, with an eye
towards taking on Microsoft Office 365 and Google’s G Suite.
Amazon declined to comment, but the
report does come just a week after
AWS launched Chime, its own take on Skype.
- The Amazon Alexa voice assistant now has
10,000 “skills,” including the ability to place a Starbucks
order or track a UPS package by talking to your phone or Amazon
Echo device. That’s double the 5,000 skills it had in December
2016. And it’s a reflection of Amazon’s strength
in voice assistants, which could spell trouble for Google
most of all.
- Amazon restructured its affiliate program,
which gives money to website operators based on the traffic
they drive to Amazon, halving the fees it pays out for
sales of electronics. Media websites like Business Insider
and Wirecutter (a New York Times subsidiary) rely on Amazon
affiliate links for a portion of revenue.
And that’s beyond the broader moves Amazon has made in the last
year or so, including, but not limited to, competing
with FedEx and UPS by moving into logistics and delivery
pressure on Google and Facebook by digging in on online
Not to mention that Amazon is fighting Microsoft and Google in
ongoing cloud computing wars. Or the
back-and-forth with Walmart over free shipping minimums. Or
the fact that Amazon Prime Video is
taking business away from physical retail stores. Or that
Amazon is launching
a line of $10 bras to fight Target and Walmart. Or that
Amazon is taking on Grubhub for restaurant delivery.
In short, in often seems that Amazon is fighting everybody, all
The scary part
Scarier still for competitors, Amazon’s business model gives it a
tremendous edge: With
Amazon Prime, especially, Amazon makes it easier to buy
physical and digital goods, to the point where you’d never even
think to look elsewhere. From there, the company can sell at
razor-thin margins, because once you’re hooked, you’ll buy at
And in the same way that Facebook has shown that it’s willing to
just straight-up copy competitors like Snapchat if it serves its
ends, Amazon has made it clear that nothing is off limits. While
crazy experiment with Wells Fargo to offer student loans
through Amazon ended after only six weeks, it shows that the
retail giant is willing to sell anything.
Indeed, Amazon is willing to try stuff and fail. Just weeks
after the Amazon Fire Phone was declared a flop, Amazon debuted
the Echo, a surprise hit that left Google, Apple, and
Microsoft scrambling to catch up. Meanwhile, every Alexa-powered
device sold is another happy Amazon customer,
across retail and digital music.
So to boil it down, Amazon will sell anything, to anyone, at a
cheaper price than anybody else can afford — and isn’t
afraid to burn money in search of new markets.
For instance, and as pointed out by a
commenter on Hacker News, it’s possible that the tweaks to
affiliate revenue are a sign that Amazon got what it wanted from
websites that promote its electronics, and is now dialing the
revenue back to drive more traffic back to its site
That’s long been the Amazon way, and this week gave us a clear
sign that Jeff Bezos’ so-called “everything
store” isn’t slowing down in its old age.
A famous quote on competition that’s
long been attributed to Bezos is that “your margin
is my opportunity.”
Or, in the words of Belloq, from the
1981 Raiders film, “once again, Jones, what
was briefly yours is now mine.”