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Snapshot: Amazon Declines to Rest on Sunday

Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon.com will this month begin Sunday deliveries in Los Angeles, New York and London. The news will come as no surprise to anybody who has observed the company’s progress and its hypnotically-consistent narrative of vaulting ambition and determination to disrupt the status quo. For Amazon, nothing is sacred and there is no rest; not even on a Sunday.

Some technology companies become part of your everyday life, like Microsoft and its omnipresent and ubiquitous Word, PowerPoint and Excel programs that have permeated our lives for the last 20 years. Other companies change our behaviour more significantly, like Nokia and other mobile phones making us always available to communicate. The odd one goes further yet, like Google making the world’s information instantly available. Amazon lies somewhere in this territory, having changed commerce and with plans to do, oh, so much more.

Amazon has redefined shopping, of course, but what’s remarkable is the company’s sheer breadth of desire for the heat of purge and change. Not only did it want to become the biggest seller of books, it then turned its attention to music, electronics and now groceries. But even shopping wasn’t enough. The company performed one of the great inside-out transformations by making Amazon Web Services a platform for others. It created the world’s best-selling e-reader with Kindle. Its leader has bought one of the world’s most famous newspapers, owns a spaceflight company and spent tens of millions of dollars to fund the Clock of the Long Now, a timepiece that will keep time for 10,000 years and is intended to encourage visitors to consider life not in the narrow parameters of the here and now.

It’s that deep-seated long-termism that divides opinion on Bezos and Amazon. Slate writer Matthew Yglesias famously wrote that Amazon is “a charitable organisation being run by elements of the investment community for the benefit of consumers … with permission from its shareholders to not turn any profits”. For others, Amazon is the world’s most fabulous company, driven by a CEO with the charisma, intelligence and chutzpah to ignore the corrosive short-term demands of the American markets. Quite simply, Bezos is the Charles Foster Kane  of the internet age.

Sunday deliveries will be a significant change but it’s unlikely that Bezos will rest until services are delivered in close to real time. His nature is one of a restless appetite to knock down and build. Given time, it’s quite possible that we will think of him in the same way as we think about Henry T. Ford, Howard Hughes or Steve Jobs – as one of the great rain-makers with the personality, ego and boundless drive to never recognise when a challenge constitutes over-reaching.

The excellent recent biography of Bezos, The Everything Store, tells a remarkable story of a rise from obscurity to internet pre-eminence. That story may seem more like a foreword by the time Bezos is done.

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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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