Boxworks 2016: Amazon CTO Werner Vogels says Amazon has always been a technology company, just one that happens to do retail really well
Vogels says Bezos is a great innovator but Amazon has to be more conservative with its cloud business than its retail unit.
“AWS is harder to experiment with,” he explains. “Once we start a service, people will build their business on it, but with retail it’s [easier].”
When Amazon develops a new service, it writes the press release first because it will result in clear, concise text that describes the proposed product. An FAQ answering 20 or so anticipated queries is then created and then the document manuals. Before the service has even been created, the company already has a series of documents with a clear, desired outcome.
“In general, customers vote with their feet very quickly,” says Vogels. “They might like something now but in a few weeks might be really bored of it. We’ve done things that customers have said they didn’t want… very loudly.”
The example he uses is Digital Soulmates, a suggestion system where shoppers were matched with another anonymous user who bought some of the same items. Paired shoppers would then be recommended products that the other one had purchased.
In a wide ranging chat at BoxWorks 2016 in San Francisco, Vogels also discusses the upcoming US election. Vogels, originally from the Netherlands, believes it is impossible to see where the presidential candidates stand on issues that will affect the technology industry, particularly with regards to privacy.
“As a European, I’m baffled,” he says. “Where I come from, most right-wing people are considered left wing in [the USA]. I’m worried that civility has departed all of our political processes. My parents were in their 20s during World War II and if they were alive now they’d be shocked about how people talk about other groups of people and wonder ‘didn’t you learn anything?’”
“Whoever treats people with respect and promotes inclusiveness should get our vote.”