Disruptive Technologies

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There was an interesting article in the Sunday, Jan. 14, business section of The New York Times about Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon. What started out as an online bookseller has morphed into a giant online seller of a vast variety of consumer products and technology.

I say technology because Amazon’s Web Services division is a moneymaker for the company and enjoys the largest share of the cloud-based computing market. And its Alexa digital assistant is used in a little over 70% of smart speakers, with Google’s assistant a distant second in market share. 

Amazon has rocked the foundation of brick-and-mortar retailers, forcing store closures and causing profits to plummet. With its recent acquisition of Whole Foods Market, this has the entire grocery industry on edge. I am not sure what the play here is with Whole Foods. We’ll have to watch how this pans out.

Bezos is now the richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of $105 billion. Princeton has to be proud of this alum. 

The Times article pointed out that Amazon, with a market cap of $600 billion, has become one of the faces of “big tech,” along with Apple, Google, and Facebook. 

But according to the article, “these companies are facing a backlash.”  Amazon, for example, is apparently under the microscope for what critics say is “its corrosive effect on jobs and competition.” However, Amazon employs more than 540,000 people and says that it will bring 50,000 new jobs to its second headquarters, wherever that may be. So the company is a big employer in its own right.

What I find interesting is Bezos’s acquisition of The Washington Post. He paid $250 million for the paper. Bezos doesn’t make foolish investments. This tells me that print still has legs, so to speak. The Post is an influential newspaper, up there with the Times and The Wall Street Journal. It will be interesting to see where he takes the paper.

Next up may be pharmacy. That’s the buzz, but pharmacy is not groceries. It’s not diapers. It’s not books. It is highly regulated, and run-of-the-mill prescriptions these days are not moneymakers. Specialty drugs are, but this is a different breed of pharmacy, one that I do not see fitting into the Amazon business model. Nevertheless, it could be a problem for community pharmacy, both chain and independent, if Amazon enters the pharmacy market.

There is no question that Amazon has been a disruptive force. It took a while for the company to turn a profit while it went after market share. But let’s face it — Amazon is now a success story on all counts. CT

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