That same year, the company launched Dash buttons for instant reordering of products like laundry detergent, and it’s more recently been investing in new services that let package-carrying couriers unlock the truck of your car and even your front door. Most recently, Amazon has signaled an intention to disrupt health care by purchasing online pharmaceutical startup PillPack. All of this has helped Amazon grow its North American retail operation at an unbelievable pace; annual sales for the division more than doubled from $50.8 billion in 2014 to $106.1 billion last year.
In addition to pulling in hosting revenue from companies like Disney, Netflix, and Spotify, AWS is also the backbone of the company’s own internal infrastructure and the underlying foundation for its Alexa digital voice assistant. It is a major competitor to Microsoft and its Azure platform, as well as Google’s cloud computing division and the cloud businesses of IBM and Oracle. AWS is so important to the integrity of the apps and websites we use that a rare S3 outage, which is the web hosting pillar of AWS, took out large swaths of the internet.
The first Echo came out in late 2014 as a Prime member exclusive, but in the four short years since, Amazon has developed dozens of different smart home products that revolve around the speaker and voice assistant format. Today, thousands of products integrate with the company’s Alexa platform to make use of its voice search and query capabilities. Just as it once foresaw e-commerce, streaming, and cloud computing as the future of the internet, Amazon saw AI as not just something that could live within the smartphone — as Apple established with Siri and Google with its Assistant — but also in the home.
Perhaps the most prominent Prime perk, however, is access to Amazon Prime Video. The video on-demand service started in 2006 as Amazon Unboxed, but was rebranded in 2008 and integrated into the Prime service three years later, where it became a huge selling point for Amazon’s annual subscription. It now boasts thousands of free TV shows, films, and games, all accessible on pretty much every screen available.
In 2015, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the United States by market capitalization. Amazon is the third most valuable public company in the United States (behind Apple and Microsoft), the largest Internet company by revenue in the world, and after Walmart, the second largest employer in the United States. In 2017, Amazon acquired Whole Foods Market for $13.4 billion, which vastly increased Amazon's presence as a brick-and-mortar retailer. The acquisition was interpreted by some as a direct attempt to challenge Walmart's traditional retail stores.
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Amazon.com, Inc., doing business as Amazon (/ˈæməˌzɒn/), is an American electronic commerce and cloud computing company based in Seattle, Washington, that was founded by Jeff Bezos on July 5, 1994. The tech giant is the largest Internet retailer in the world as measured by revenue and market capitalization, and second largest after Alibaba Group in terms of total sales. The Amazon.com website started as an online bookstore and later diversified to sell video downloads/streaming, MP3 downloads/streaming, audiobook downloads/streaming, software, video games, electronics, apparel, furniture, food, toys, and jewelry. The company also owns a publishing arm, Amazon Publishing, a film and television studio, Amazon Studios, produces consumer electronics lines including Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets, Fire TV, and Echo devices, and is the world's largest provider of cloud infrastructure services (IaaS and PaaS) through its AWS subsidiary. Amazon also sells certain low-end products under its in-house brand AmazonBasics.
Barnes & Noble sued Amazon on May 12, 1997, alleging that Amazon's claim to be "the world's largest bookstore" was false because it "...isn't a bookstore at all. It's a book broker." The suit was later settled out of court and Amazon continued to make the same claim. Walmart sued Amazon on October 16, 1998, alleging that Amazon had stolen Walmart's trade secrets by hiring former Walmart executives. Although this suit was also settled out of court, it caused Amazon to implement internal restrictions and the reassignment of the former Walmart executives.
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Bezos and those he’s hired over the years have been prescient about a vast number of shifts in how people spend money, buy products, and use the internet. But none of their predictions may have panned out quite as lucratively as Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud computing division that loans server space and other computing resources at massive profit margins.
While Amazon grew in the ‘90s largely thanks to its growing share of the print book market and its dominance of online book sales, it was its early investments in ebooks and e-readers that turned it into a digital publishing and book-selling powerhouse. Amazon began work on its first Kindle e-reader starting in 2004 under codename Fiona, with its internal Lab126 hardware division leading the product development process. The first device was released in November of 2007 and sold for $399. Amazon has since released numerous iterations of the Kindle, and it now dominates the e-reader market after edging out competing products from Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and others.
The infomercial industry is huge and is worth a staggering $250 billion as of 2015. It all started back in the late 40’s and early 50’s when major sponsors of serial television programs were soap manufacturers (i.e. Proctor & Gamble, Lever Brothers and Colgate-Palmolive), which is how “soap operas” got their name. There is some controversy although the first infomercial is thought to have been for a blender either made by VitaMix or Waring Blenders and aired in 1949 or 1950. Time limits for commercials were imposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not too long after this which halted the growth of infomercials until 1984 when those limits were removed.