By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
October 26, 2018

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I loved the first sentence—journalists call this “the lede”—in the story in The New York Times about Amazon’s quarterly earnings, released Thursday: “Amazon’s profits were hit or miss for its first couple of decades.”

It’s a funny beginning because 20 years is a long time for a company to establish a record for being consistently profitable. Nevertheless, Amazon grew revenues and destroyed other people’s businesses as it was making money sometimes and more often losing it. Today, Amazon has the reverse problem: It gushes cash but has become an inconsistent grower—at least compared to its own high-octane days.

Slower-than-hoped-for growth coupled with less-than-enthusiastic guidance combined to cream Amazon’s stock in after-hours trading. Amazon is a juggernaut still. But it hasn’t found a growth elixir for the pricey supermarket chain it acquired, Whole Foods. Its web hosting business has real competition. And its belated commitment to paying higher hourly wages will cut into now-reliable profits.

Speaking of Amazon, I highly recommend a feature story in the current issue of Fortune by Brian Dumaine about the voice-computing efforts of Amazon and several of its competitors. This is a fascinating dissection about how artificial intelligence is juicing the ability of computers to recognize human commands and respond with useful information or actions. Dumaine makes the case that this computing paradigm shift is so important it could be as big as the shift from PCs to smartphones. I think you’ll find the article worthwhile.

And speaking of artificial intelligence, check out this video by Fortune’s own “Brainstorm Films.”

Have a paradigm shifting weekend.

Adam Lashinsky


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