Jeff Bezos is not the first tech company founder to step back and spend more time with his philanthropy: Pierre Omidyar at eBay was an early mover, Bill Gates is the most notable example.
The difference here is that the Amazon chief is going to devote himself to more applied projects that represent his hobbies and interests — he cited the need to focus time and energy on his “passions” in his letter to staff on Tuesday, naming the Day 1 Fund pre-school initiative, the climate-change Bezos Earth Fund, his Blue Origin space venture and his defence of the established media through his ownership of The Washington Post. He’s also building a giant clock.
As for his company, investors have taken his loosening of the reins well — the stock has traded flat for most of today. He will still be executive chairman from later this year and deciding on the important stuff. As Dave Lee’s analysis relates, Brian Olsavsky, Amazon’s chief financial officer, said this would include “the more important decisions: things like acquisitions, things like strategies and going into grocery and other things”.
His successor Andy Jassy is an Amazon insider currently leading the high-growth cloud services business. Lex says he has a good chance of following Tim Cook, Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai as chiefs who have followed founders at Apple, Microsoft (after Steve Ballmer) and Google by driving their valuations to new peaks. Sometimes, CEOs don’t have to be charismatic visionaries to succeed massively, they just have to balance expertly on the shoulders of their mentors.
The Internet of (Five) Things
1. Google’s blowout quarter as Bing bashes it in Oz
Amazon also happened to post record quarterly revenues of $125.6bn on Tuesday, up more than 40 per cent year-on-year and comfortably beating Wall Street’s expectations. Not to be outdone, Google reported an unexpected surge of advertising in the final months of last year lifted its revenues to $56.9bn, far above Wall Street forecasts. Meanwhile, Bing owner Microsoft has criticised Google’s threat to shut down its search engine in Australia.
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2. Sony boosted by PS5 success
Microsoft appears to be trailing Sony in next-generation consoles, with an estimated 2.4m Xbox Series X units sold versus 4.5m PlayStation 5s, the latter number revealed by Sony on Wednesday as it reported revenues and profits far above market expectations. However, Lex is worried about PS5 and semiconductor shortages.
3. GM shutdown on semi shortages
Speaking of chip shortages, General Motors is the latest carmaker to report problems. GM ordered a shutdown at three plants and slowed production at a fourth. The Detroit carmaker said that its 2021 production targets were under threat as a result of semiconductor supply issues.
4. 5G costs more than 5 Grand
A record 5G spectrum auction yielded $81bn for the US taxpayer last month over 97 rounds of bidding. The January auction marked a staggering increase on the previous record sale of US airwaves at $45bn set six years ago. It was more than twice analysts’ forecasts. Elsewhere, Vodafone has said that consolidation is “probably needed” in the crowded Spanish market where it has been linked with a deal with rivals MasMovil and Orange.
5. Spotify tops 150m subscribers in 2020
Spotify added more subscribers than expected in the December quarter, propelling the streaming service to 155m paying customers at year end. The company nevertheless issued conservative guidance for 2021, warning that it faced “substantial uncertainty” due to the “unknown duration of the pandemic”.
Tech tools — Zoom for a Covid-free office
It seems like every time I use a video conferencing service, whether it’s Google Meet, Teams, Skype or Zoom, there is some new feature or tweak to take into account, such is the pace of innovation and competition for the working-from-home audience.
Today Zoom unveiled new features for when we finally go back to the office. Its Zoom Rooms conferencing platform is adding tools using supported cameras and other hardware that tell you how many people are in an office meeting room for a conference call so social distancing guidelines can be enforced. Using the Neat Bar appliance, you can also monitor air quality, humidity and CO₂, viewing the stats on the Zoom dashboard. In addition, a Virtual Receptionist mode allows visitors to be safely greeted in the lobby by an on-screen receptionist. So even in the office, you can still stay virtual.