What is Amazon? Whatever Amazon wants to be
Amazon's vice president of Kindle, Peter Larsen, displays the Amazon Fire TV, a new device that allows users to stream video, music, photos, games and more through their television, on April 2, 2014 in New York City.
When Amazon Prime launched in 2005, it was just a way to prepay for two-day shipping. Since then, many of the things customers used to get delivered—books, music, and movies—are now digital files.
So, Amazon has been adding other benefits to Prime, like streaming movies, and starting this week, music. Critics say its new Amazon Music is far from the most expansive or current list of songs, but it’s another way Amazon is trying to infuse itself into our lives and become the first place we spend our money.
This is also part of a big transformation in what, exactly, Amazon is.
“The company has reached out and become a true platform. It has both the hardware and software offerings," says Colin Gillis, director of research at BGC Financial.
Amazon builds its own Kindles and has its own smartphone coming out next week. It may even become a delivery company, cutting out UPS and the Post Office. And, its servers—called Amazon Web Services—host many of its competitors, including Netflix.
“Who would have thought that Amazon is running some major 30-40 percent of the internet and now running data storage for the United States government,” says Dave Selinger, the former manager of Amazon’s customer behavior research and site optimization. He’s now CEO of RichRelevance.
Amazon’s servers will host a revamped HealthCare.gov. Selinger says Amazon, at its core, is whatever its founder Jeff Bezos wants it to be.
“If he believes he can do something better, faster or cheaper, you can expect he will, at the very least, think long and hard about whether he’s going to do that,” Selinger says.
That’s why you hear rumors of Amazon taking on Angie’s List and Yelp.
“I view it as a company that simply won’t cede any ground on the internet,” says Brad Stone, who wrote the book about Amazon called "The Everything Store".
Amazon is willing to lose millions of dollars on experiments like selling groceries, just to ensure it’s the first place we shop.
“They think they can do it all better,” Stone says.
That’s even if early reviews say Amazon Music is just OK.