Amazon first entered the media industry as a major online retailer in the late ‘90s. The company began by selling CDs and DVDs to a burgeoning market of online shoppers who began turning to the internet for music and movies, before the technical feasibility of streaming and the advent of the iPod. But it wasn’t until 2005, with the initial launch of Amazon Prime, that the company began laying the ground work for a future digital media ecosystem that integrated directly into its online store.
The company was founded as a result of what Jeff Bezos called his "regret minimization framework," which described his efforts to fend off any regrets for not participating sooner in the Internet business boom during that time. In 1994, Bezos left his employment as vice-president of D. E. Shaw & Co., a Wall Street firm, and moved to Seattle, Washington, where he began to work on a business plan for what would become Amazon.com.
Amazon hasn’t been content stopping with smart speakers and just standard old appliances under its AmazonBasics brand. In its quest to put Alexa everywhere, the company now sells a dizzying number of smart home devices that go well beyond its core speaker and set-top box beginnings. First there was the Echo Dot, to help bring Alexa to analog speaker systems and get the voice assistant into more rooms of the home. Then there was the Echo Look, for AI-assisted outfit recommendations, and the Echo Show, which contained a display and camera for video chatting and was designed to be a hands-free screen for the kitchen.
Amazon is known today not just as the everything store, but as the creator of Alexa, one of the most pervasive digital voice assistants on the market today. As an extension of Alexa, Amazon has become more than just a seller of other people’s products. It’s now a hardware maker (Fire Phone aside), having embarked on its boldest product play since the original Kindle when it decided to develop its own line of smart speakers to house its artificial intelligence software. Once again, the division responsible for this piece of hardware was Lab126, Amazon’s hardware arm that gave it the tools to dominate the e-reader market nearly a decade prior.
In November 2013, Amazon.com announced a partnership with the United States Postal Service to begin delivering orders on Sundays. The service, included in Amazon's standard shipping rates, initiated in metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and New York due to the high-volume and inability to deliver timely, with plans to expand into Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Phoenix by 2014.
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.
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.