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3 Big Takeaways from Amazon’s Cloud Bonanza

November 29, 2017, 10:41 PM UTC

For Amazon, the key to cloud computing dominance is overwhelming the competition with new tools and customers.

Andy Jassy, the leader of Amazon Web Services, spent nearly three hours during the annual AWS re:Invent 2017 conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday talking about Amazon’s (AMZN) cloud supremacy.

Yes, companies like Microsoft (MSFT) and Google (GOOG) may have growing cloud computing businesses that involve selling access to computing resources in a pay-as-you go model. But those companies still lag AWS when it comes to important benchmarks like the number of customers they have or cloud computing features, he said.

To be fair, AWS has a head start of several years in cloud computing, and the cloud computing market still represents just a fraction of the overall IT market, according to research from Gartner. So there’s still time for the others to catch up.

Here are three takeaways from Jassy’s talk:

Amazon Talks Trash About Its Rivals

Jassy took a not-so-subtle shot at cloud computing rivals by showing a graphic that compared the number of AWS features to those of its competitors. Of course, AWS was listed as the leader in all the categories, from database services to security.

But instead of listing the rivals by name, AWS listed them by color. Vendor 2 was blue, the corporate color of Microsoft Azure. Vendor 3 was multi-colored kaleidoscope—just like Google’s logo, while Vendor 4 was very red and very Oracle.

Tiring of subtlety, Jassy eventually got granular by calling out Oracle by name and showing a cartoon that made Oracle founder Larry Ellison the butt of the joke. Jassy said customers want “the ability to not be locked in to abusive or onerous relationships,” a nod to the perception of Oracle’s hard-knuckled sales teams. Of course, with AWS getting bigger, so too does the perception that its own business will flex its muscles too.

You Want Customers? We Got ‘Em!

Technology companies like Microsoft and Salesforce (CRM) typically use their annual user conferences to showcase new partnerships and customers. Amazon was no different.

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For example, new Expedia CEO Mark Okerstrom talked on stage about how the travel company is moving its entire corporate infrastructure to AWS. NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle mentioned using AWS’s machine learning tools to provide better statistics for football teams. Quarterbacks could one day use the data to explain to coaches why they chose to get sacked during a play. Rather than the sack being considered a failure, it could be more easily spun as the best decision for the team.

And while no Disney representative was at the talk, Amazon said Wednesday that the entertainment giant has chosen AWS to be its “preferred public cloud infrastructure provider.” This means that while Disney can use other cloud services, it’s likely to spend the most money on AWS.

You Better Believe We Know About Machine Learning

Jassy shared a laundry list of new feature during his talk. But what’s noteworthy is that he appeared to focus a lot on machine learning products, an area in which tech analysts believe Amazon trails Microsoft and Google in, as a recent Bloomberg News report described.

Jassy also tried to end the perception that AWS has fewer AI tools for developers than its peers. Without saying that Amazon wants to “democratize artificial intelligence,” to the masses like Microsoft, Google, and Salesforce all do, Jassy described a similar-sounding strategy that refers to making complex AI technology easier to use for those without deep backgrounds in the field.

Amazon, like Google and Microsoft, believes it’s among a small group of businesses that has the most sophisticated deep learning technology and related expertise needed to operate the tech. And it wants to make money by selling access to the AI technology it creates.

With that, Jassy announced new AI tools that are similar to Google’s language translation and transcription services.

He also talked about another tool that can recognize certain images in videos and can automatically flag “inappropriate content like videos you don’t want people to be watching,” which could be useful for companies interested in showing user-created videos on their sites.

Jassy also showed off a portable camera that has the ability to automatically recognize objects and even the emotions of a person’s face. AWS machine learning chief Matt Wood demonstrated the camera’s capabilities by smiling next to the album art of Pink Floyd’s psychedelic epic Dark Side of the Moon. The camera recognized the band that created the music and the album’s name. It also deduced that Wood likes the album, based on his smile. Wood then frowned in front of Whenever You Need Somebody, an album by 1980’s pop star Rick Astley. The dutifully camera noted his lack of enthusiasm.