Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) went live in 1995, and ever since, the Seattle-based company has systematically revolutionized the way people consume. Its CEO and founder, Jeff Bezos, decided in 1994 that he would start the company so he never had to look back with regret over not capitalizing on the dotcom boom.
Now he's the richest man in the world.
- The Amazon Dash Button lives on in virtual form.
- AmazonFresh has expanded to 15 metro areas in the U.S.
- Amazon Air aims to deliver by drone in 20 minutes.
- Fire TV has a substantial share of the streaming device business.
Though his launching of the business was random and impulsive, Bezos has since been methodical in building his brand. During the 21st century, Amazon has led the way on many technological fronts, from cloud computing to e-readers, online grocery shopping, video streaming, and gaming. Most are, not incidentally, ways to receive, consume, and store information, entertainment, and products that are sold by Amazon. And, the company has a host of new technologies in its pipeline, working their way through various stages of development.
1. Amazon (Virtual) Dash Button
When Amazon announced its new Dash Button technology in late March 2015, the idea seemed so far-fetched that many took it as an April Fools' joke. The company had to issue a statement clarifying that the device was real.
The Dash Button began its life as a single-function controller about the size of a pack of gum that Amazon Prime members could place around the house. Each button corresponded to a household necessity by brand name. The user just pressed the Dash Button to reorder detergent or razor blades.
Sometime in the near future, Amazon hopes to deliver Prime orders in 30 minutes flat using unmanned drones.
Amazon discontinued the physical devices in 2019. It continues to support the buttons that are in place, including some that were installed in appliances by their manufacturers.
The company said it sold millions of the Dash Buttons, at $5 each. But it apparently feels that its Alexa voice assistant supplanted the functions of the buttons. The name and design live on in Virtual Dash Buttons, a reorder page that lists past purchases for one-click ordering.
Online grocery shopping dates back to the 1990s. Amazon, however, is the only company that has managed to achieve lasting success with this business model.
Its AmazonFresh subsidiary allows users in certain geographic markets to place grocery orders from the company's expansive inventory of fresh produce, brand-name packaged goods, and Amazon-branded ready-to-heat and ready-to-eat meals. A truck delivers the order in two hours.
The service launched in 2007 in the Seattle suburbs. Since 2013, the subsidiary has been expanding quickly and now reaches about 15 metropolitan areas. Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods in 2017 expanded the service's product line.
3. Amazon Prime Air
Sometime in the near future, Amazon executives say, customers will be able to receive their Prime orders in 30 minutes flat, and the company won't have to break any speed limits to get there.
The company's secret is unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones. While these devices remain shrouded in controversy, the company is optimistic that people will view drones that bring them things they want in a more favorable light than drones used for spying or deploying weapons.
As of April 2020, this wasn't yet a clickable option, but the company has Prime Air development centers up and running in the U.S., U.K., Austria, France, and Israel.
4. Amazon Fire TV
Fire TV is Amazon's response to similar products from competitors, such as Apple's Apple TV and Google Android's Roku. The product is gobbling up market share quickly. By mid-2019 it had more than 34 million active users.
The streaming industry measures market share separately for the box and the stick. In the U.S., Amazon's Fire TV box had a 28.5% share of the market but 57% of the market for sticks.
Its versatility has garnered rave reviews from industry analysts: A Fire TV box streams live TV and allows users to watch hundreds of queued shows and movies. It is also a popular and well-received gaming device.
5. Amazon Fire Phone
Even Amazon can't win them all. In June 2014, the company made its first push into the smartphone market with its launch of the Amazon Fire phone.
It seemed like a natural: The device ran the same operating system, Fire OS, as the company's popular Kindle Fire e-reader. It had a raft of innovative features, such as Dynamic Perspective, which created the appearance of depth, and Mayday, a 24-hour customer service app. The phone was capable of downloading and running any app designed for Google Android. And, naturally, it had useful tie-ins to Amazon shopping services.
It bombed. Little more than a year later, Amazon discontinued the Fire Phone, and it hasn't ventured into that territory since.