BusinessWeek has what looks like a cover story, taking a very in depth of the world that is Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN). All talk about valuations aside, it’s been quite an amazing journey for Jeff Bezos and co. – one of the few names from the Internet bubble of the late 90s to really deliver on its promise (and more). On Twitter yesterday I was having a discussion with some others who noted that in this era of corporate short termism (“do everything to make the quarter! We’ll worry about next year, next year!”) Bezos is one of the few CEOs who has eschewed Wall Street’s demands of the near term, to focus on long term vision. Even more ironic, in that Bezos came from Wall Street himself.
It’s a quite lengthy article so I’d suggest a full read here, but I’ll pull a few snippets here.
- Amazon’s 1990s slogan—“Earth’s largest bookstore”—stood for an ambition that now seems cute. Amazon boasted of its unlimited selection of books, even though in most cases it was simply having them shipped directly from distributors. Today, Amazon sells millions of goods and services, from toys and high-definition televisions to server space for other Internet companies and digital reading devices for book lovers. Borders found it impossible to match Amazon’s selection and went out of business earlier this year. Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) has watched Amazon undercut it and commoditize whole product categories, and is now trying to shrink the square footage of its superstores. Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT) has struggled to match the ease and reliability of Amazon’s shipping network, and posted nine straight quarters of declining same-store sales. Websites that have matched Amazon in selection, price, and customer service—Zappos, Diapers.com—Bezos has quickly acquired.
- As its rivals steadily asphyxiate, Amazon is ringing up 50 percent growth in quarterly revenues, and could reach $50 billion in sales this year. Walmart needed almost twice the time—33 years—to cross that threshold.
- If the Kindle Fire is half as good as it looked in Bezos’ conference room, it will fan the fears about Amazon’s growing dominance. The tablet funnels users into Amazon’s meticulously constructed world of content, commerce, and cloud computing. Just like owners of Kindle e-reading devices tend to start buying all their books from Amazon, Kindle Fire owners are likely to hand over an increasing chunk of their entertainment budget to Jeff Bezos.
- Even with only 28.7 million iPads sold, e-commerce sites say they see an increasing amount of traffic coming from tablets. Forrester Research (NASDAQ:FORR) reported this summer that online purchases made on tablets now account for 20 percent of all mobile e-commerce sales, and that nearly 60 percent of tablet owners have used them to shop. Bezos says tablets “are a huge tailwind for our business.” Amazon once saw spikes in traffic during the workday lunch hours. Now traffic is more evenly distributed as people pick up their tablets anytime of the week, buying the books and albums they see on television and making impulsive decisions about replacing their dishwashers.
- Bezos won’t say what kind of devices he’s cooking up next. People with knowledge of the division’s plans say that the Kindle Fire is only the first of a line of Amazon tablets, not an isolated product, and that the group has always considered the possibility of building Amazon cell phones and Internet-connected TVs. “We are a company with a lot of ideas,” Bezos says, when asked directly about his plans. And then, of course, he laughs uproariously.
Trader Mark is the author of Fund My Mutual Fund.