Tales In Tech History: Amazon – From Online Book Retailer To Tech Giant

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Scourge of the High Street? How a simple online book seller transformed itself into global e-commerce and tech giant

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The no profits strategy of Bezos was proved right and he had his revenge on Walmart when in 2015 Amazon surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the United States by market capitalisation.

And Amazon has signalled its intention to move out of its online domain and into the ‘bricks and mortar’ market (or High Street in UK speak) in a further challenge to other retailers.

The company is also currently in the process of acquiring Whole Foods Market for $13.4 billion (£10.3bn) in a move that will greatly increase its presence as a physical retailer, and also serve up a chilling challenge to well established High Street supermarkets.

There is little doubt that Amazon’s Bezos should be regarded as one of the tech industry’s unsung innovators. After all, under his control, Amazon has pioneered the use of delivery drones and even a giant floating ‘airship warehouse’.

amazonairshipIt has also developed its own range of e-readers, tablets, and at one stage a smartphone.

And its Amazon Echo speaker with its Alexa artificial intelligence is also serving up a smart home challenge.

Earlier this year Bezos sold 1 million shares worth a staggering $940.74 million (£727m) in order to fund his Blue Origin space exploration firm. Blue Origin it should be remembered aims to send tourists on brief flights into suborbital space where they can experience weightlessness and gain a view of the Earth.

Amazon fire phone 3D

And Bezos continues to use his vast fortune in other areas as well.

In 2013 for example he purchased the Washington Post newspaper, and he has also made previous investments in projects such as a 10,000-year clock and the recovery of Apollo moon-mission booster rockets from the ocean floor.

But it is perhaps Amazon Web Services (AWS) that is the crowning achievement of Bezos, and the firm is also the world’s largest provider of cloud infrastructure services (IaaS and PaaS). Not bad for a platform which was intended to support Amazon’s own retail ambitions with the intention of selling excess capacity on the side.

That is not to say things have always gone the way of Bezos over the years.

His smartphone adventure tanked, and Amazon itself has been criticised in the past over a number of issues, including poor working conditions in its warehouses, the level of taxes it pays, and its ranking of sellers to name but a few.

But there is little doubt that Amazon is a mighty tech player, and its rivals tend to keep at least one eye permanently fixed on it.

Not bad for a firm that once began life in a garage in Seattle.

Quiz: How much do you know about Amazon?

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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