Amazon: Thursday is another test for Jeff Bezos

September 6, 2012

After last year’s Kindle Fire announcement, there was a lot of chatter about the device, but also about Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos.

Bezos, headlines told us, was the “next Steve Jobs,” noting how smoothly the executive handled the launch event and how well he introduced a tablet that would put a direct Amazon buying portal into the hands of millions. So while Bezos may not have the cult-like following or showmanship of Apple’s late co-founder, it’s hard to argue with the success that Amazon’s seen in the past few years.

The company is a quiet but formidable competitor in the technology space. Amazon is far beyond the stage of being an online mall. It provides storage space for enterprises with its Amazon Web Services, going after the same customers that Microsoft and Google are fighting for. It’s building out its video offerings to take on the likes of Netflix and Apple’s iTunes store. It’s still dominating in books with the Kindle reader — a position that could only be enhanced by the Department of Justice’s decision to stop Apple’s pricing structure for e-books.

And, under the guidance of Bezos, Amazon has done this all by moving into areas that stray from Amazon’s original retail roots.

In 2009, Bezos discussed the Kindle’s surprise success with Dan Lyons for Newsweek, saying that his decisions to expand from retail were rooted in looking at what the customer wanted.

“We start with the customer and we work backward,” Bezos said in the interview. “We learn whatever skills we need to service the customer. We build whatever technology we need to service the customer.”

He also told Lyons that he didn’t listen too much to investors, who — as CNET pointed out Thursday — have often second-guessed Bezos and the amount of money he’s spent on new services and products. But in the past two years, Amazon has seen strong, steady growth.

And investors, it seems, are willing to let his intuition about the customer take the lead for now. Shares again passed the $250 mark Thursday — something they did for the first time just last month after Amazon announced it had run out of first-generation Kindle Fires.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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