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According to sources, Amazon did not expect to make a profit for four to five years. This comparatively slow growth caused stockholders to complain that the company was not reaching profitability fast enough to justify their investment or even survive in the long-term. The dot-com bubble burst at the start of the 21st century and destroyed many e-companies in the process, but Amazon survived and moved forward beyond the tech crash to become a huge player in online sales. The company finally turned its first profit in the fourth quarter of 2001: $5 million (i.e., 1¢ per share), on revenues of more than $1 billion. This profit margin, though extremely modest, proved to skeptics that Bezos' unconventional business model could succeed.
In late 2016, the company launched its first experimental Go store, which replaces cashiers with a computer vision system that automatically detects when you take products off the shelf and checks you out as you leave the store. Go now has two locations in Chicago, three in Seattle, and one that just opened in San Francisco today, with more planned in California and New York City over the course of the next year. Bloomberg reported in September that Amazon may open as many as 3,000 Go locations by 2021, with the goal of competing with stores like CVS and 7-Eleven, as well as fast casual and made-to-go meal establishments. The company is also now experimenting with brick-and-mortar stores that sell only four-star rated products from Amazon.com, starting with a location in New York City.
Amazon has attracted widespread criticism for poor working conditions by both current employees, who refer to themselves as Amazonians, and former employees, as well as the media and politicians. In 2011, it was publicized that at the Breinigsville, Pennsylvania warehouse, workers had to carry out work in 100 °F (38 °C) heat, resulting in employees becoming extremely uncomfortable and suffering from dehydration and collapse. Loading-bay doors were not opened to allow in fresh air, due to the company's concerns over theft. Amazon's initial response was to pay for an ambulance to sit outside on call to cart away overheated employees. The company eventually installed air conditioning at the warehouse.
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.
When it comes to last-mile delivery, Amazon has publicly disclosed its work on drones and the Prime Air program to use those unmanned aerial vehicles to drop packages on our doorstep. The project has been in the works since 2013, and it’s hit a few snags as the regulation of US commercial drone operations has been a slow and often painful process for companies trying to get operations off the ground.
AWS started way back in 2000 as a way to help other retailers manage e-commerce operations, but it soon expanded into much more when key project members managed to convince Bezos that improving and evolving Amazon’s own infrastructure may hold the key to a new business model. In 2006, the product as we know it today launched into public availability and proved to be a pioneer for the entire cloud computing industry, offering cloud storage, hosting, and a suite of other tools for managing entire digital infrastructures in remote data centers. The division now pulls in roughly $6 billion every quarter and continues to grow at breakneck pace. It earned $17.5 billion in revenue in all of 2017 and regularly outperforms the company’s entire North American retail division in terms of profit.
Twitch is a live streaming platform for video, primarily oriented towards video gaming content. The service was first established as a spin-off of a general-interest streaming service known as Justin.tv. Its prominence was eclipsed by that of Twitch, and Justin.tv was eventually shut down by its parent company in August 2014 in order to focus exclusively on Twitch. Later that month, Twitch was acquired by Amazon for $970 million. Through Twitch, Amazon also owns Curse, Inc., an operator of video gaming communities and a provider of VoIP services for gaming. Since the acquisition, Twitch began to sell games directly through the platform, and began offering special features for Amazon Prime subscribers.
Shortly after the first Kindle launched, Amazon premiered its Kindle Direct Publishing platform to let authors self-publish and sell books on Amazon. Two years later, the company launched its own suite of professional imprints called Amazon Publishing. Amazon now oversees tens of millions of self-published works on its platform and nearly two dozen imprints. In 2017, Amazon had more than 83 percent of all US ebook sales.
Since its founding, the company has attracted criticism and controversy from multiple sources over its actions. These include: supplying law enforcement with facial recognition surveillance tools; forming cloud computing partnerships with the CIA; luring customers away from the site's brick and mortar competitors; placing a low priority on warehouse conditions for workers; participating in anti-unionization efforts; remotely deleting content purchased by Amazon Kindle users; taking public subsidies; claiming that its 1-Click technology can be patented; engaging in anti-competitive actions and price discrimination; and reclassifying LGBT books as adult content. Criticism has also concerned various decisions over whether to censor or publish content such as the WikiLeaks website, works containing libel and material facilitating dogfight, cockfight, or pedophile activities. In December 2011, Amazon faced a backlash from small businesses for running a one-day deal to promote its new Price Check app. Shoppers who used the app to check prices in a brick-and-mortar store were offered a 5% discount to purchase the same item from Amazon. Companies like Groupon, eBay and Taap.it countered Amazon's promotion by offering $10 off from their products. The company has also faced accusations of putting undue pressure on suppliers to maintain and extend its profitability. One effort to squeeze the most vulnerable book publishers was known within the company as the Gazelle Project, after Bezos suggested, according to Brad Stone, "that Amazon should approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle." In July 2014, the Federal Trade Commission launched a lawsuit against the company alleging it was promoting in-app purchases to children, which were being transacted without parental consent.
Vince Offer is a famous director, comedian, and commercial pitchman who made his name promoting the ShamWow. Using his natural charisma and his ability to add double entendres to his pitches, Vince turned the commercial into a major career move. The ShamWow itself is one of the most successful cleaning products on the market today, and Vince himself has gone on to pitch several other As Seen on TV products.