Amazon showed the world after the dot com bubble that an Internet retailer could be huge, profitable and powerful. Then, the company effectively created the booming ebook industry. Now, Amazon is trying to change to change our world again, talking with traditional book publishers about creating an ebook rental service.
Expected to be available only in the U.S. first, customers would pay a free for access to a library of ebooks. Publishers reportedly have mixed reactions to the concept -- worried it might downgrade the overall value of the book business, driving prices lower. That's the same thing they said when Amazon and company founder, CEO Jeff Bezos shoved ebooks into the world at lower price points.
People are still reading. Some are even reading more, thanks to devices like Amazon's Kindle ereader and Apple's popular iPad tablet. Now, Amazon is nearing the launch of its own tablet, threatening to compete with the iPad, and redesigning its website, while trying to launch an ebook rental business.
Now that Steve Jobs has resigned at Apple's CEO, and Amazon is aggressively on the move, it's time to recognize the world's new reigning tech corporate leader. There is only one clear heir apparent to the post, amid Jobs' departure, and really no discussion at all is required in naming Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos to the honor.
Jobs is credited as arguably the world's all-time great innovating CEO. He helped launch the Mac computer. He created iTunes, the iPhone smartphone and the iPad tablet. But Bezos has his share of tech obsessions and accomplishments, too, and the list is growing rapidly.
Here are 10 reasons the 47-year-old Bezos, a Princeton graduate who was named Time magazine Person of the Year in 1999, is the world's new reigning tech freak geek leader in light of Jobs' retirement:
1) Bezos created with Amazon a smart, customer service online retail system that knows its customers better than most brick and mortar retailers known their customers from face-to-face interaction and database collection. That's why Amazon has evolved with arguably the most competitive retail business model ever built. He didn't just launch a retailer -- he launched an entire new way of selling and interacting with customers. Bezos founded the company in 1994, when most people didn't use email, yet he knew the Internet must become more than a point-and-click fulfillment tool for retailing.
2) He is trying to launch space tourism as a business through Blue Origin, a company focused on building a spacecraft that takes paying individuals for a trip into space. Although Bezos' space tourism dream was dealt a setback last week after a spacecraft funded by the Amazon chief was lost during a recent test, his dream still lives.
Not the outcome any of us wanted, but we're signed up for this to be hard, and the Blue Origin team is doing an outstanding job, Bezos wrote. We're already working on our next development vehicle. Bezos founded the human spaceflight start up company in 2004.
3) Bezos filed a patent this year for a new smartphone protection product -- tiny airbags that will be deployed from a phone if a built in-accelerometer detects the unit is falling. Most everybody that owns a smartphone has had a moment of panic when the drop it -- but Bezos is attempting to do something about the problem, inventing an mini-airbag system which includes a laser or radar to determine distance between the ground and the phone.
4) He is responsible for the Kindle, Amazon's industry-leading ereader, and he effectively shaped digital book publishing the way Jobs shaped digital music downloads. Go most anywhere, and look around. You will likely see a Kindle nearby. Perhaps even a few. They are everywhere, but it's not just the hardware that makes Bezos and Amazon special. Kindle Direct Publishing is now the leading global tool for self-publishing books and other materials.
5) Bezos is about to launch a tablet to compete with Apple's iPad. The tablet will likely run on Google's Android operating system, and directly tie in with Amazon's Android app store -- of course it will. While HP couldn't compete against the iPad many industry observers think Bezos and Amazon can. The company will likely try to hit a sweet spot in pricing with a sub-$300 price point. If so, Bezos will become the first to effectively compete with Apple's global-leading iPad tablet.
6) He can write a business plan from the passenger seat of a moving Chevy Blazer -- and he did for Amazon in 1994 while his wife, Mackenzie, drove from Texas to Seattle -- and run a new business from home, as he did with Amazon. He later coded the Web site himself, getting some 300 friends and acquaintances to test it out before launch.
7) Bezos understands that technology finds its highest mark when it creates affordability and useability for mass consumers. He set out to create the world's most customer-centric company by creating one place that had everything, but also knows its customer. He also challenged the company to yield the best prices, and now Amazon has a decided competitive advantage, not just among traditional products like books, but also in its signature electronic devices like the Kindle and soon to be tablet.
For instance, when Apple launched its iPad tablet last year, threatening to take market share from Kindle -- Bezos and company moved fast to slash Kindle pricing and get new models into the pipeline.
8) He single-handily changed publishing. Once upon a time, self-publishing was a losing proposition for 99 percent of all authors. Most couldn't get bookstore distribution and they had to risk money on printing books that likely wouldn't sell just to get a work in print. Now, Kindle Direct Publishing has leveled that playing field, as anyone can upload a book for free, price it, and start selling. Already two self-published authors have sold more than one million books through Kindle, and thousands of others are selling books every day without a publisher.
9) Bezos can stand his ground when he has a conviction and a vision. For instance when Wall Street pressured the company approaching the time of the dot com bubble bust in the late 1990s to quickly reach profitability, Bezos was undaunted. So while some argued that he as the company's leader was burning up cash too fast to get-big-fast instead of focusing on profitability, he didn't listen. We're going to be unprofitable for a long time, Bezos told Inc. magazine in 1997. And that's our strategy.
Incidentally, profitabiilty is not an issue for Amazon any longer.
10) He's a risk-taker. Most any entrepreneur is a risk taker at one level or another. But it's not just that Bezos walked off a job on Wall Street to start Amazon when the Internet was still in its infancy. It's that Bezos hasn't let up since, founding a space tourism company, and converting Amazon from the world's largest online retailer into what is soon to be recognized as one of the world's leading tech companies. Bezos isn't afraid to place the big bet, and he's not afraid to place more than one big bet at a time.