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What is Amazon without Jeff Bezos?

July 6, 2021, 4:54 PM UTC

This week marks a new era for Amazon.

On July 5, chief executive Jeff Bezos stepped down as CEO, handing the title to longtime Amazon Web Services head Andy Jassy. The date marked exactly 27 years since Bezos founded the company.

This wasn’t a surprise: Amazon announced in February that Bezos would be stepping out of the CEO role and transitioning into a new role, executive chair.

But Jassy is now in control of the company’s operations all the same, and has now inherited one of the most dominant and ruthless tech companies. He will oversee the sprawling empire that Bezos built, including Amazon’s main e-commerce arm, the brick-and-mortar Whole Foods grocery chain, online pharmacy PillPack, and a global logistics service spanning land, sea, and air.

That’s not all. Jassy will also manage the entertainment offerings of Amazon, including the Amazon Studios television and movie production house, the Prime Video and Prime Music streaming services, the audiobook platform Audible, the gaming livestreaming site Twitch, and the movie database IMDb. He’ll also oversee the entire hardware line including Kindle, Alexa, the Ring security camera company, the Kuiper Systems satellite internet startup. Oh, he’s also still in charge of his old stomping grounds, the Amazon Web Services cloud computing business. And that’s a just the short list, not counting Amazon’s smaller initiatives like its professional loan services, Amazon Lending.

In addition to inheriting business units, Jassy is also now responsible for the headaches that Bezos created for the company, by building its immense size and wealth off the backs of overworked employees. While Amazon squashed a unionization attempt at an Alabama warehouse earlier this year, its workers worldwide have begun to strike and speak out. Complaints include against low international and domestic wages, grueling working conditions that can force employees to urinate in bottles so as to not fall behind, the company’s contributions to climate change, and even that workers are hired and fired by an algorithm.

Jassy must now make investors happy by expanding Bezos’ kingdom, while assuaging employees and fending off antitrust regulators.

But Jassy is an Amazon lifer, and has been at the company since the week before it went public in 1997. He’s also a longtime confidant of Bezos, and worked as chief-of-staff to the founder for 18 months after the dot-com bust in the early 2000s, according to Bloomberg. Jassy then led one of Amazon’s most ambitious and rewarding moonshots, the creation of Amazon Web Services, which today controls a third of the massive cloud computing market.

Recently, Amazon indicated that it intends to focus on employee wellbeing, by updating its leadership principles to include making the company “Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place To Work.” But little else has been committed, or indicates whether that principle will impact the realities of Amazon’s 1.3 million employees.

But the one thing we know for sure is that investors will be intently watching Jassy’s first weeks on the job. So as he’s known to say:

“Giddy up, let’s get this going.”

Dave Gershgorn 
@DaveGershgorn

NEWSWORTHY

Billionaire camp is in session. Allen & Company's annual "summer camp for billionaires" kicks off this week in Sun Valley, ID. The guest list includes Jeff Bezos, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings. The shindig is known for fertilizing high-power acquisitions and deals, like when Bezos bought The Washington Post.

Apple's privacy campaign bears fruit. Mobile advertisers are directing cash away from iOS devices and towards the Android platform, after Apple introduced anti-tracking software this year, according to The Wall Street Journal. The new software on Apple devices lets users opt out of tracking tools often used by advertisers. However, Apple doesn't take a cut of third-parties advertising within their apps, so it's unlikely to be a hit to the company's bottom line.

Nintendo flips a new Switch. Four years after its initial 2017 release, Nintendo has announced a new version of its ultra-popular Switch console. The upgrades are minimal, but they include a new OLED 720p screen, 64 GB of storage, and a larger kickstand.

Tech companies could flee Hong Kong. Facebook, Twitter, and Google have sent letters to Hong Kong regulators warning that new regulation could push them out of operating in the city. The companies claim that a proposed anti-doxxing law, which seeks to punish those who disclose personal information about others online, could hold companies and employees liable for the actions of their users.

Google boots data thieves. Nine apps that stole users' Facebook login data have been kicked off the Google Play Store, Ars Technica reports. The largest app, which added decorative, if tacky, frames to photos had been downloaded 5.8 million times. The eight others had been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. Google also banned the app developers, but it would be easy enough for them to sign up under another name.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

What's in a privacy threat? The threat of facial recognition surveillance might seem like a far-away threat, but a pilot program in a Texas school shows just how invasive the technology can be. A new report from The Markup reveals that during a weeklong test, students' faces were analyzed and detected 164,000 times, while one student alone was detected 1,100 times. It's worth pondering if students need to be checked on by an algorithm more than a thousand times every week. 

From the report:

“The mission creep issue is a real concern when you initially build out a system to find that one person who’s been suspended and is incredibly dangerous, and all of a sudden you’ve enrolled all student photos and can track them wherever they go,” Clare Garvie, a senior associate at the Georgetown University Law Center’s Center on Privacy & Technology, said. “You’ve built a system that’s essentially like putting an ankle monitor on all your kids.”

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Porsche to suppliers: shift to clean energy—or else by Christiaan Hetzner

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BEFORE YOU GO

What about Bezos' retirement? While many of Bezos' warehouse employees may never get a chance to retire, the 57-year-old ex-CEO is leaving his company to focus on spending his immense wealth.

Bezos has said he's focusing on tackling climate change through his $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund, which The Wall Street Journal reports he's already been directly involved in leading. He'll also be one of the first people blasted into space by his rocket company, Blue Origin. The launch is scheduled for July 20.

So don't worry about Bezos getting bored after leaving the CEO role. If he gets bored by spaceflight and Hollywood parties, he can always take a vacation on his $500 million yacht.

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