|From: Glenn Petersen||1/24/2021 7:34:24 AM|
|Amazon could face a new union push and antitrust scrutiny under the Biden administration|
PUBLISHED SAT, JAN 23 202110:00 AM EST
UPDATED SAT, JAN 23 20213:25 PM EST
Annie Palmer @ANNIERPALMER
-- Amazon has cozied up to the Democratic Party through donations and its top spokesperson has a longstanding relationship with President Joe Biden.
-- But that doesn’t guarantee it will be smooth sailing for Amazon during the next four years of the Biden administration.
-- Here’s what’s at stake for Amazon in the Biden administration.
Like many in the tech industry, Amazon has cozied up to the Democratic Party. Its political action committee and company executives are among those who threw their money behind President Joe Biden on the campaign trail, while Amazon’s top spokesperson, Jay Carney, has longstanding ties to Biden.
But that doesn’t guarantee the next four years of the Biden administration will be smooth sailing for the online retail giant. Antitrust reform, stronger privacy standards and a renewed push for workers’ rights are just a few of the issues that could be on the new administration’s agenda.
Here’s what’s at stake for Amazon in the Biden administration:
New union push
After a rocky relationship with Trump’s administration, organized labor is hopeful that Biden will make good on his promises to be “the most pro-union president.” Amazon is likely to keep a close eye on the new administration’s moves on the labor front, as it faces a renewed push from unions to organize its warehouse workers.
Biden has made empowering workers a key tenet of his labor agenda, which also proposes various reforms to labor laws and expanding worker protections. His plan includes policies that would consider a company’s labor record when awarding federal contracts and codify into law an Obama-era change to National Labor Relations Board rules aimed at speeding up union election campaigns.
Biden has also voiced support for the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which passed the House last February and would levy fines against companies that interfere with workers’ organizing efforts. While the bill is unlikely to pass in the Senate, it could generate new scrutiny of Amazon’s efforts to track workplace unrest, as well as its labor practices.
“I would say [the PRO Act] has very little chance of passing,” said Gordon Lafer, a labor studies professor at the University of Oregon and a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute. “So other than that, the question is what could the Biden-appointed Labor Board do unilaterally without needing legislation? There is a lot they could do that would be significant.”
From a high level, Biden’s support of the labor movement has the potential to reignite union membership after years of steady declines. This could pose a threat to Amazon, which has staunchly opposed unions in its workforce. Amazon’s appetite for unions is currently being tested in Alabama, where workers at its Bessemer warehouse are set to vote next month on whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
While Biden and Amazon may not see eye to eye on unions, the company is in agreement with Biden on one issue: raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In a tweet replying to Biden last week, Amazon touted its $15 minimum wage and said it hopes to work with the administration on making it the national standard.
An Amazon spokesperson didn’t respond to questions seeking clarity on how it would work with the Biden administration on minimum wage issues.
Greater OSHA oversight
Biden has also telegraphed plans to expand workplace protections by restoring some Obama-era reforms to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which were rolled back by the Trump administration. Biden plans to increase the number of OSHA investigators and require companies to electronically report their workplace injuries, among other changes.
This could mean that Amazon and other companies face stricter enforcement of OSHA standards. With more investigators on staff, the agency may be more likely to take up OSHA complaints filed by employees and inspect facilities, as well as levy fines against companies that are found to be in violation of OSHA rules, said Debbie Berkowitz, a former OSHA official who now works for the National Employment Law Project.
“The enforcement switch at OSHA has been turned off, but it’ll get turned back on,” Berkowitz said. “OSHA will again respond to complaints with inspections and there will be a willingness to enforce the law to protect workers.”
Amazon’s workplace safety record continues to be a topic of controversy, including during the coronavirus pandemic. California’s attorney general is investigating working conditions at Amazon’s California warehouses during the pandemic, while some lawmakers have scrutinized the company’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
The company has previously said it continues to invest in creating a safer work environment at its facilities.
Amazon has bolstered its workplace safety team with a number of people who have ties to OSHA and employment litigation as scrutiny of its warehouse working conditions continues to grow. The company added another staffer from the agency to the workplace safety team this month when it brought on Madeleine T. Le, a former OSHA lawyer, as senior governance and compliance manager.
“Amazon has lawyered up for this,” Berkowitz said. “They are lawyering up to start fighting OSHA inspections.”
Amazon spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said the company has expanded its workplace health and safety team as part of its efforts to ensure its workplaces are “leading in state-of-the-art safety investments, training and education, and safety programs.”
“Today, our global workplace health and safety team is comprised of more than 5,000 employees who use Amazon’s innovation, technology and data insights, combined with exceptional experience and leadership in the safety industry, to ensure the highest standards to keep our employees safe,” Lighty said.
Breaking up Big Tech
Biden has offered few hints on how he would approach antitrust issues, beyond expressing concern over the power Silicon Valley giants wield in tech and other industries. But there are signs he will take a tougher stance on reining in Big Tech than the Obama administration, which has been criticized for its close ties to tech companies.
While Google and Facebook are currently the focus of investigations on the federal level, Amazon is unlikely to escape antitrust scrutiny with Biden in the Oval Office.
Amazon is already being probed by Federal Trade Commission officials over its business practices in retail and cloud computing, according to reports from several outlets. Last year, the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust found that Amazon has monopoly power over third-party sellers. Amazon and its rivals, including Facebook, Google and Apple, also face a separate probe from the Justice Department.
Groups that are critical of Amazon’s power are closely watching who Biden appoints to key posts handling tech policy matters, fearing that any influence from Silicon Valley could derail antitrust investigations or diminish scrutiny. Alex Harman, competition policy advocate at advocacy group Public Citizen, said he expressed those concerns in meetings with Biden’s agency review teams last November.
“This was a problem in the Obama administration that I was part of,” Harman said. “There was a flavor of ‘Google is great and a Google revolving door is a positive thing.’ That is no longer OK.”
Section 230 under attack
Another tech policy that’s likely to be in focus in the new administration is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields tech companies from being liable for what users post on their platforms.
Talks of Section 230 reform are often targeted toward social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube. But the law affords Amazon and other e-commerce companies some protections as well.
Similar to social media companies, the law protects e-commerce sites from being held liable for any user-generated content on their platforms, like product descriptions or customer reviews.
Amazon has invoked Section 230 as a defense in some product liability lawsuits concerning faulty products sold on its website, arguing that it merely provides the platform for third-party merchants to hawk their wares, so it’s not actually the seller.
The company also pointed to Section 230 in defending its decision to drop Parler, a social media site popular with Trump supporters, from its cloud-computing platform in the wake of the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6.
Biden has called for Section 230 to be revoked, arguing that companies should be held accountable for hosting content they know to be false.
It’s unclear how the Biden administration may seek to reform Section 230. Democrats and Republicans agree there are issues with the law, but they’re divided on why it merits a review. Generally, Democrats hope to hold platforms more responsible for policing false speech and calls to violence, while Republicans worry about inconsistent moderation practices that censor politically conservative viewpoints.
Privacy and facial recognition
With Democrats in control of Congress, lawmakers could revive attempts to regulate facial recognition technology and establish a federal privacy law.
Amazon has previously come under fire from advocacy groups, politicians and employees who have pressured the company to stop selling its facial recognition software to government agencies. Last June, Amazon imposed a one-year moratorium on facial recognition software contracts with police, but it didn’t say if the ban applied to federal agencies.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris recognized the need for changes to privacy and facial recognition laws before they entered the White House. Biden said in an interview with The New York Times last year that the U.S. “should be setting standards not unlike the Europeans are doing relative to privacy.”
Last year, two partisan privacy bills were introduced by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. While lawmakers agree on the need for a federal privacy law, they continue to disagree on whether the national law should preempt state bills and if individuals should be allowed to sue companies over privacy violations.
Lawmakers are already examining the data Amazon collects from consumers. Last month, the Federal Trade Commission sent letters to Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and several other tech companies requiring them to hand over information about how they collect and use data.
In 2019, Amazon and other members of the Business Roundtable wrote to congressional leaders saying the support the creation of a consumer data privacy law.
When it comes to facial recognition, as a U.S. Senator for California, Harris expressed skepticism around facial recognition technology. Harris in 2018 wrote to three federal agencies to highlight research showing how facial recognition can produce or reinforce racial and gender bias.
Amazon would be impacted by any federal limits on facial recognition technology, such as those proposed in the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act, a bill that seeks to ban federal law enforcement use of the technology.
Groups that advocate for racial justice and privacy rights are hoping the Biden administration will take up the call to keep the technology out of the hands of law enforcement permanently.
“Amazon, along with other Silicon Valley companies, are raking in billions of dollars by selling this really dangerous tool to law enforcement,” said Myaisha Hayes, campaign strategies director at advocacy group Media Justice. “We’re hoping that with this administration we can convince more members of Congress to take police tech surveillance really seriously.”
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|From: Sr K||1/26/2021 12:21:44 PM|
Former Zappos.com Inc. Chief Executive Tony Hsieh was alone in a locked shed and possibly intoxicated, surrounded by candles, a propane heater and other flammable material when the fire that killed him ignited on Nov. 18, according to fire department officials.
The fire marshal classified the fire’s origin as undetermined but said the investigation could be reopened if more evidence or information comes to light, according to a report released Tuesday. Mr. Hsieh was 46 years old when he died on Nov. 27, nine days after the fire at a home he was staying at in New London, Conn.
The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Nov. 30 that Mr. Hsieh died of complications of smoke inhalation and ruled the death an accident. A police investigation found no criminality associated with the fire, the New London Police Department said Tuesday. The medical examiner’s full report is pending, police said.
A spokeswoman for the Hsieh family declined to comment.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||2/2/2021 8:20:55 PM|
|Amazon blows past estimates for holiday quarter, sets record with $125.6B in revenue|
BY TAYLOR SOPER
on February 2, 2021 at 2:15 pm
Amazon crushed expectations for its holiday quarter, beating estimates with an all-time high of $125.6 billion in sales.
The fourth quarter earnings report also included news that CEO Jeff Bezos will step down in the third quarter. Amazon Web Services chief Andy Jassy will replace Bezos, who founded Amazon 27 years ago. Bezos will become executive chairman.
Amazon eclipsed $100 billion in quarterly revenue for the first time. The company recorded a whopping $386 billion in annual revenue last year.
The Seattle tech giant has surged amid the pandemic as consumers turn to online shopping and more people rely on its cloud arm, Amazon Web Services. Amazon also pushed its annual Prime Day shopping bonanza to October this year, providing another boost for its Q4 sales.
Amazon spent another $4 billion on COVID-19-related costs during the fourth quarter and hired hundreds of thousands of workers. But it was still able to post earnings per share of $14.09, nearly double compared to analyst estimates.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the company’s financials from the quarter.
Revenue: Amazon posted $125.6 billion in revenue, up 44% from the year-ago quarter. Analysts expected $119.6 billion.
Profit: Amazon reported net income of $7.2 billion, or earnings per share of $14.09, beating expectations of $7.20, and up from $6.47 last year. Operating income came in at $6.9 billion, up from $6.2 billion in the third quarter, and up from $3.9 billion in the year-ago quarter.
Stock: Shares were up slightly in after-hours trading. The company’s stock is up more than 60% over the past 12 months and was trading at around $3,380/share on Tuesday before the market closed. Amazon’s market capitalization has risen to $1.7 trillion, right behind Microsoft. They trail Apple ($2.2 trillion) for the title of most valuable publicly-traded U.S. company.
Outlook: Amazon expects Q1 2021 sales between $100 billion and $106 billion. Operating income is projected at $3 billion to $6.5 billion. COVID-19-related costs are expected to be $2 billion.
Amazon Web Services: Amazon’s cloud business was up 28% at $12.7 billion, with $3.6 billion in operating income, continuing to help drive Amazon’s profits. The AWS revenue growth rate was down by 6% year-over-year.
Shipping costs: Amazon’s shipping costs have ballooned in recent years as the company aims to speed up delivery with its push for one-day shipping. During Q4, Amazon spent $21.4 billion on shipping, up 67%. Amazon grew its fulfillment center footprint by 50% in 2020.
Physical stores: The category, which includes Whole Foods and Amazon Go stores, posted revenue of $4 billion, down 7%.
Advertising: The company’s growing advertising arm doesn’t have its own category, but makes up a majority of the revenue under a category called “Other.” That category surged in Q4, bringing in $7.9 billion in revenue for the quarter, up 64% from a year ago. Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky said Prime Day and a recovery in advertising toward the end of the year helped drive revenue for the Other category.
Headcount: Amazon now employs 1.3 million people, up 63% year-over-year. That figure does not include seasonal and contract workers. It hired more than 170,000 people in Q4 and 500,000 people total in 2020.
Prime: Subscription services revenue, which includes Prime memberships, came in at $7 billion, up 34%. Amazon said it had more than 150 million Prime members a year ago; it has not provided an updated number since then. Prime membership sign-ups spiked during the holiday quarter, according to a recent report from CIRP.
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|To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (164185)||2/2/2021 8:27:49 PM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|Jeff Bezos to step down as Amazon CEO, Andy Jassy to take over in Q3 |
PUBLISHED TUE, FEB 2 20214:05 PM EST
UPDATED TUE, FEB 2 20216:27 PM EST
Todd Haselton @ROBOTODD
-- Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will leave his post later this year, turning the helm over to the company’s top cloud executive Andy Jassy.
-- Jassy joined Amazon in 1997 and has led Amazon’s Web Services cloud team since its inception.
-- Bezos said he will stay engaged in important Amazon projects but will also have more time to focus on the Bezos Earth Fund, his Blue Origin spaceship company, The Washington Post and the Amazon Day 1 Fund.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will leave his post later this year, turning the helm over to the company’s top cloud executive, Andy Jassy, according to an announcement Tuesday. Bezos will transition to executive chairman of Amazon’s board.
Bezos, 57, founded Amazon in 1994 and has since morphed the one-time online bookstore into a mega-retailer with global reach in a slew of different categories from gadgets to groceries to streaming. Amazon surpassed a $1 trillion market cap under Bezos’ leadership in January of last year — it’s now worth more than $1.6 trillion.
The company had kept its succession plans quiet, though onlookers speculated that either Jassy or Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon’s worldwide consumer business, would be Bezos’ eventual successor. In August Amazon announced Wilke will retire in 2021. Jassy, 53, will become CEO in the third quarter.
Jassy joined Amazon in 1997 and has led Amazon’s Web Services cloud team since its inception. AWS continues to drive much of Amazon’s profit.
“I’m excited to announce that this Q3 I’ll transition to Executive Chair of the Amazon Board and Andy Jassy will become CEO,” Bezos said in a letter to employees. “In the Exec Chair role, I intend to focus my energies and attention on new products and early initiatives. Andy is well known inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as I have. He will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence.”
The news came alongside an earnings report in which Amazon posted its first $100 billion quarter. AWS, under Jassy, reported 28% revenue growth for the fourth quarter. About 52% of Amazon’s operating income was attributed to AWS as of October 2020.
Shares of Amazon were up about 1% in extended trading Tuesday on the back of the earnings report and the C-suite news. The company’s stock has gained about 4% so far in 2021 and is up nearly 70% in the last 12 months.
Amazon’s chief financial officer, Brian Olsavsky, said on a media call that the executive change was decided in consultation with Amazon’s board of directors. He said Bezos will remain very involved and have his fingerprints on lots of different parts of the company. Olsavsky said Jassy is a visionary leader who will bring his own skill set but that Amazon expects a lot of continuity with the transition.
Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services.
Jassy will need to guide the company through antitrust concerns once he takes the reins. In October, after a 16-month investigation into competitive practices at big tech companies including Amazon, the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust concluded that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google enjoy monopoly power. Amazon is also facing antitrust complaints in the EU.
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said on Twitter shortly after the announcement that he has questions for Jassy, hinting at an early hurdle when Jassy is installed.
Bezos said he will stay engaged in important Amazon projects but will also have more time to focus on the Bezos Earth Fund, his Blue Origin spaceship company, The Washington Post and the Amazon Day 1 Fund.
“As much as I still tap dance into the office, I’m excited about this transition,” Bezos said in his internal announcement. “Millions of customers depend on us for our services, and more than a million employees depend on us for their livelihoods. Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming. When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else.”
Industry CEOs and Amazon competitors congratulated Bezos and Jassy on the coming transition, with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella calling Jassy’s promotion “well-deserved.”
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai offered Bezos “best wishes” on his other projects.
Here’s the full letter from Bezos to Amazon employees:
I’m excited to announce that this Q3 I’ll transition to Executive Chair of the Amazon Board and Andy Jassy will become CEO. In the Exec Chair role, I intend to focus my energies and attention on new products and early initiatives. Andy is well known inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as I have. He will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence.
This journey began some 27 years ago. Amazon was only an idea, and it had no name. The question I was asked most frequently at that time was, “What’s the internet?” Blessedly, I haven’t had to explain that in a long while.
Today, we employ 1.3 million talented, dedicated people, serve hundreds of millions of customers and businesses, and are widely recognized as one of the most successful companies in the world.
How did that happen? Invention. Invention is the root of our success. We’ve done crazy things together, and then made them normal. We pioneered customer reviews, 1-Click, personalized recommendations, Prime’s insanely-fast shipping, Just Walk Out shopping, the Climate Pledge, Kindle, Alexa, marketplace, infrastructure cloud computing, Career Choice, and much more. If you get it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. And that yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive.
I don’t know of another company with an invention track record as good as Amazon’s, and I believe we are at our most inventive right now. I hope you are as proud of our inventiveness as I am. I think you should be.
As Amazon became large, we decided to use our scale and scope to lead on important social issues. Two high-impact examples: our $15 minimum wage and the Climate Pledge. In both cases, we staked out leadership positions and then asked others to come along with us. In both cases, it’s working. Other large companies are coming our way. I hope you’re proud of that as well.
I find my work meaningful and fun. I get to work with the smartest, most talented, most ingenious teammates. When times have been good, you’ve been humble. When times have been tough, you’ve been strong and supportive, and we’ve made each other laugh. It is a joy to work on this team.
As much as I still tap dance into the office, I’m excited about this transition. Millions of customers depend on us for our services, and more than a million employees depend on us for their livelihoods. Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming. When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else. As Exec Chair I will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions. I’ve never had more energy, and this isn’t about retiring. I’m super passionate about the impact I think these organizations can have.
Amazon couldn’t be better positioned for the future. We are firing on all cylinders, just as the world needs us to. We have things in the pipeline that will continue to astonish. We serve individuals and enterprises, and we’ve pioneered two complete industries and a whole new class of devices. We are leaders in areas as varied as machine learning and logistics, and if an Amazonian’s idea requires yet another new institutional skill, we’re flexible enough and patient enough to learn it.
Keep inventing, and don’t despair when at first the idea looks crazy. Remember to wander. Let curiosity be your compass. It remains Day 1.
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|To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (164186)||2/2/2021 10:06:46 PM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|Amazon’s next CEO, Andy Jassy, transformed e-commerce company into a cloud computing giant|
PUBLISHED TUE, FEB 2 20215:40 PM EST
UPDATED TUE, FEB 2 20219:03 PM EST
Ari Levy @LEVYNEWS
Jordan Novet @JORDANNOVET
-- Amazon said on Tuesday that Andy Jassy, who runs the cloud unit, will succeed Jeff Bezos as CEO of the parent company in the third quarter.
-- Jassy helped launch Amazon Web Services in 2006 and turned it into the dominant force in cloud infrastructure.
-- In Amazon’s earnings report, the company said AWS revenue increased 28% to $12.7 billion.
Andy Jassy, Amazon AWS
Andy Jassy has spent the past 15 years converting Amazon from an e-commerce giant into a highly profitable technology company, creating and then dominating the cloud infrastructure market.
Now, he’s about to take center stage as CEO of the third-most valuable U.S. company after Apple and Microsoft. Amazon said on Tuesday that Jassy will succeed Jeff Bezos at the helm in the third quarter, becoming the second CEO in the company’s 27-year history.
Jassy, 53, is a member of Bezos’ elite group of executives called the S-team. While he’s been head of AWS since its inception, Bezos elevated him by giving him the title of AWS CEO in 2016. In September, a column in the Washington Post, which Bezos owns, called Jassy the “clear heir apparent” to Bezos.
Jassy graduated from Harvard University in 1990 and from Harvard Business School in 1997. He then went straight to Amazon and never left. In an interview last fall, he said that his wife and he agreed they’d move to the west coast to be closer to her family for a few years and then move back to New York. “That was 23 years ago of course and the statute of limitations has probably expired,” he quipped.
Amazon paid Jassy a total of $348,809 in 2019, down from $19.7 million in 2018, when he received over $19 million in stock awards, according to the company’s most recent proxy statement. He owns about 85,000 shares, valued at $287.3 million as of Tuesday’s close. He trimmed his holdings from just over 100,000 shares last year.
Critical to Jassy’s success has been his ability to attract all types of businesses and organizations to AWS products, offering services for the smallest of start-ups and the world’s largest enterprises, like Apple. Along the way, he’s won business from the Central Intelligence Agency and Democratic National Committee. In recent years, more AWS contracts have come public, as companies like Pinterest, Slack, Lyft and Snowflake held their IPOs and had to disclose their heavy cloud spending.
When AWS began rolling out services in 2006, the focus was on providing cloud storage and compute capacity, mostly to smaller tech companies and teams of developers. As those businesses grew up, many never bought their own servers or storage arrays, instead relying on Amazon for all of their data center needs. By the time Microsoft got serious about Azure and Google began investing heavily in its cloud platform, Jassy had built what has amounted so far to an insurmountable lead.
As of mid-2020, Amazon controlled 33% of the global cloud infrastructure services market, followed by Microsoft at 18% and Google at 9%, according to Synergy Research. Amazon said on Tuesday that AWS revenue in the fourth quarter jumped 28% to $12.7 billion. Operating income increased 37% to $3.56 billion, accounting for 52% of Amazon’s total operating profit.
In recent years, AWS has expanded well beyond core computing and storage to provide a host of different services on top of its infrastructure, including databases, analytics tools, content delivery and machine learning software. That’s turned Amazon into a fiercely competitive rival to big companies like Oracle and emerging cloud players like Snowflake, which also pays Amazon a ton of money every year.
In 2017, Jassy slammed Oracle for what he described as the company’s practice of locking customers into painfully long and costly contracts. “People are very sensitive about being locked in given the experience they’ve had the last 10 to 15 years,” Jassy said at Amazon’s AWS Summit in San Francisco. “When you look at cloud, it’s nothing like being locked into Oracle.”
Amazon’s annual Reinvent conference in Las Vegas began in 2012, though the latest one was virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s become a go-to event for enterprise executives and venture capitalists. Jassy is known for extravagant keynotes, including in 2016, when he brought an 18-wheel truck, called Snowmobile, on stage for a demo on how AWS could get data from a company’s data center into an Amazon facility.
Jassy will take over the CEO role later this year, as Bezos transitions to executive chairman, Amazon said. The announcement comes less than six months after Jeff Wilke, who had been CEO of Amazon’s worldwide consumer business and widely considered to be a top successor to Bezos, said he was retiring.
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|To: kidl who wrote (164188)||2/3/2021 9:26:31 PM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|Bezos may have been one of a kind, but Jassy will do fine.|
Ben Thompson, though not well known, is probably the best technology journalist in the U.S. This piece is well worth reading. His blog is worth a bookmark.
He is arguably the greatest CEO in tech history, in large part because he created three massive businesses, all of which generate enormous consumer surplus and enjoy impregnable moats: Amazon.com, AWS, and the Amazon platform (this is a grab-all term for the Amazon Marketplace and Fulfillment offerings; it is lumped in with Amazon.com in the company’s reporting). These three businesses are the result of Bezos’ rare combination of strategic thinking, boldness, and drive, and the real world manifestations of Amazon’s three most important tactics: leverage the Internet, win with scale, and being your first best — but not only — customer.
The Relentless Jeff Bezos – Stratechery by Ben Thompson
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|From: Glenn Petersen||2/7/2021 6:00:56 AM|
|Amazon’s New CEO, Andy Jassy, Can Either Help Workers and Sellers—or Automate Them Away|
One secret of Amazon’s ability to grow rapidly: software and algorithms that manage its millions of employees and marketplace sellers—technologies the executive knows well
By Christopher Mims
Wall Street Journal
Feb. 6, 2021 12:00 am ET
Andy Jassy is taking over a very unusual “tech” company.
Amazon AMZN 0.63% has many times more employees than any of its competitors, such as Microsoft, Google and Apple, and many are low-skilled manual laborers, rather than software engineers. Amazon is also a partner with approximately 2.4 million active marketplace sellers, who generate the majority of sales on its retail platform. But the incoming chief executive, Mr. Jassy—a loyal deputy and devoted student of founder Jeff Bezos—has at his disposal a powerful tool for managing such a vast ocean of workers and partners: an equally vast cloud-software infrastructure that he has overseen from its start.
Amazon uses software to manage in a way that’s unlike almost any other company, except maybe gig-economy giants Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart. Whether they’re driving a delivery van, picking items from shelves or trying to maintain their product inventory to avoid being delisted, Amazon’s employees, subcontractors and seller-partners are monitored, evaluated, rewarded and even flagged for reprimand or coaching by software.
Many view Mr. Jassy as a warmer figure than his predecessor, Jeff Bezos. It remains to be seen whether his empathy will extend to warehouse workers and third-party sellers.PHOTO: DAVID PAUL MORRIS/BLOOMBERG NEWS
While Mr. Jassy is often described by those who have worked for him as being a lot like Jeff Bezos, but perhaps warmer and fuzzier, there is arguably at present a sharp contrast between the way he treats his immediate reports and the way Amazon’s algorithms and artificial intelligence treat its millions of front-line workers and marketplace sellers. If Mr. Jassy can figure out how to use algorithms to manage workers and partners as humanely as he apparently manages the people he works with personally, that may prove to be his defining legacy as CEO.
Having built Amazon Web Services from a tiny startup he headed within Amazon, begun in the early 2000s, into the behemoth of the cloud market (and generator of half of Amazon’s profits), Mr. Jassy understands not only the internet plumbing for countless tech companies AWS supports, from Netflix to Slack, but also how it’s plugged into the myriad businesses owned by Amazon itself. Now 53 years old, Mr. Jassy joined Amazon in 1997, immediately after graduating from Harvard Business School.
Mr. Jassy’s experience running a cloud operation might not qualify him to run a competitor like Walmart, which is still dominated by physical stores. But, along with his nearly 24 years at Amazon, it gives him an edge in overseeing Amazon’s e-commerce operations and the rest of its sprawling empire. (Cloud computing is remote computing power accessed through the internet, and it’s the key enabler of everything from the mobile revolution to scores of services we take for granted, from streaming to AI.)
Amazon’s empire faces challenges—technological, operational, and regulatory—that are as big as any it has ever contended with.
For starters, there is a question that goes to the heart of what kind of corporation Amazon wants to be. Executives at the company are emphatic about their desire to preserve the health of employees, and give them opportunities to grow and develop, but the way Amazon manages both employees and seller-partners with algorithms is often at odds with those values. Should Mr. Jassy choose to make changes, can Amazon engineer its software and systems to be more empathetic to the needs of those they serve and rule over?
The same cloud infrastructure Amazon uses to manage and transact with millions of customers also supports systems that, by many accounts, drive its employees ever harder, and often leaves its third-party sellers at a loss as to how to navigate Amazon’s marketplace—fueling complaints and investigations into its labor and competitive practices. Will Amazon engineer its systems to instead improve workers’ quality of life and promote better and more transparent relations with its vendors?
Next, will Mr. Jassy balance Amazon’s status as one of America’s largest employers with the company’s drive to automate as many roles as possible? And finally, how much of this will he be able to achieve in the face of mounting antitrust investigations and calls for a breakup of the company?
Mr. Jassy’s career has been defined by expanding Amazon’s automated capabilities, including fleets of robots in warehouses.PHOTO: ROSS D. FRANKLIN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Mr. Bezos stepping down as CEO gives the company a chance to try resetting its public image, in Washington and around the world. Many who have worked with Mr. Jassy have said that while he’s like Mr. Bezos in some ways, his temperament is gentler and more low-key.
David Risher was a senior vice president of retail at Amazon from 1997 to 2002, and he worked closely with Mr. Jassy. “If the past is prequel, he’ll lead from the heart as well as the head,” says Mr. Risher. “He leads with genuine empathy—the kind you can’t fake.” The two are still in touch; Mr. Jassy is a member of the advisory council for Mr. Risher’s Worldreader nonprofit, which gives underprivileged children access to digital books.
Throughout the supply chain of Amazon’s e-commerce operation, humans are onboarded rapidly into jobs that require almost no training. This is possible because of how directed and constrained by algorithms and automation these roles have become. In Amazon’s more advanced fulfillment centers, for example, employees who pick items for orders from robot shelves are surveilled by AI-enabled cameras. A cloud-connected scanning gun monitors the rate at which they pick items, the number and duration of their breaks and whether they’re grabbing the right items and putting them in the right places. Managers need only step in if software reports a problem, such as a worker falling behind.
An Amazon spokesperson objected to the characterization that anyone in its facilities is “managed by algorithm,” because all associates have a human manager who is responsible for them and who coaches them if they don’t meet performance expectations. “Our front-line workers are the heart and soul of Amazon,” and receive the same benefits as corporate employees from the day they start at the company, the spokesperson added. Amazon has in the past said only a small percentage of associates are fired or leave the company because of performance issues.
Software, too, has already replaced the humans who would usually handle the accounts of retail partners. Even big brands that decide to sell on Amazon are for the most part dealing with the company’s automated systems. AI almost entirely governs how sellers are treated on Amazon’s marketplace, and it isn’t always easy to work with, says Jason Boyce, who was for 17 years a top-200 seller on Amazon, and who subsequently founded Avenue7Media, which helps companies sell on Amazon’s marketplace.
“Their AI doesn’t get nuance sometimes,” he says. Sometimes it will take seller listings down with little warning, leaving small businesses scrambling to make payroll, he adds.
“Amazon invests heavily in supporting our sellers as we work together to serve customers and protect seller brands,” says an Amazon spokesperson. “It is in our economic interest to minimize any disruption of our selling partners’ sales, and we work hard to prevent mistaken enforcement. We call all low-risk or tenured sellers before suspension, and we provide a clear path for sellers to appeal enforcement decisions through our team.”
Mr. Jassy might choose to improve these systems, or he might just automate away most of his employees. And, if regulators don’t step in, many of its partners and marketplace sellers, too.
At present, Amazon needs all the workers it can get. But depending on whether unionization efforts at the company gain traction, the company may soon have yet another powerful incentive to replace workers with automation as fast as it can. The company has tried many tactics to prevent unionization at its facilities, arguing, among other things, that a unionized workforce would reduce the flexibility it needs to continue to adapt its systems.
It’s clear that Amazon wants to use its AI and cloud-computing infrastructure on even more ambitious forms of automation, such as autonomous delivery, both by drone and with wheeled vehicles. Given that Amazon has outsourced to thousands of local-delivery franchisees the last mile of delivery within its own logistics network, the company could end contracts with such companies virtually overnight, as it has in the past, without affecting the size of the workforce it employs directly.
Mr. Bezos, who has a talent for long-term thinking, seems to have chosen just the right moment to install an unflappable CEO who has the opportunity and possibly the temperament to burnish Amazon’s image. The biggest challenges in Amazon’s immediate future, aside from unionization, are what could be years of congressional hearings, as well as federal investigations, about whether Amazon is a monopoly that should be broken up, says Paul Armstrong, an industry analyst and creator of the “What Did Amazon Do This Week?” newsletter.
Under Mr. Jassy, “I think you’ll possibly get a more-boring Amazon,” adds Mr. Armstrong. Known for his cool head and attention to detail, Mr. Jassy also has the benefit of not identifying with Amazon as personally as Mr. Bezos, its creator, does. This could serve him well as he is forced to appear before Congress on a semiregular basis, and spend a significant portion of his time huddled with lawyers, should the antitrust actions against Amazon come to a head.
Whether all this AI, software and automation will be used to ease the burden of its employees, or to force them to work harder to keep up, is a choice all companies face in the age of digitization, and none more so than Amazon. It’s possible Mr. Jassy will choose to manage this ongoing transition differently than the famously hard-charging Mr. Bezos has. It’s also possible that he may feel forced, by the attention of regulators, to manage things differently than Mr. Bezos.
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Write to Christopher Mims at email@example.com
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Appeared in the February 6, 2021, print edition as 'Commanding Amazon’s Army Of Workers—With Software.'
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|To: Sr K who wrote (164191)||2/8/2021 5:57:11 PM|
EGEB: Amazon will reach 100% clean energy by 2025 with Shell’s helpThat doesn't make any sense. Amazon has a huge number of locations, served by many different utilities and many different power plants, most of which can not be served from a wind farm of the Netherlands coast.
...Royal Dutch Shell and Amazon today announced that Shell Energy Europe BV will supply Amazon with green energy from a subsidy-free offshore wind farm off the Netherlands coast.
Perhaps the amount of energy it produces is equal to or greater than what Amazon uses world wide, and so they count this as offsetting their fossil fuel usage elsewhere, but its rather dubious to consider this to mean Amazon is 100 percent clean energy.
Also "subsidy free" is a bit dubious at least for subsidies broadly defined. It might not get direct government subsidies, it might not even get special targeted tax breaks, but I doubt it pays the same amount of taxes per kw/h that fossil fuels face in the Netherlands, and its likely there is some form of purchase requirement for the energy, maybe subsidized loans, minimum prices that will get paid (even if the market price goes below that) and/or other forms of favorable treatment.
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