Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com, Inc. in 1994 and launched it online in 1995. It started as an on-line bookstore but soon diversified to product lines of VHS, DVD, music CDs and MP3s, computer software, video games, electronics, apparel, furniture, food, toys, etc. Amazon has established separate websites in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, China, and Japan. It also provides global shipping to certain countries for some of its products.
On January 15, 2009, a survey published by Verdict Research found that Amazon was the UK's favorite music and video retailer, and came third in overall retail rankings.
History and business model
Amazon was founded in 1994, spurred by what Bezos called "regret minimization framework", his effort to fend off regret for not staking a claim in the Internet gold rush. While company lore says Bezos wrote the business plan while he and his wife drove from New York to Seattle, that account appears to be apocryphal.
The company began as an online bookstore named "Cadabra.com", a name quickly abandoned for sounding like "cadaver"; while the largest brick-and-mortar bookstores and mail-order catalogs for books might offer 200,000 titles, an on-line bookstore could offer more. Bezos renamed the company "Amazon" after the world's biggest river. Since 2000, Amazon's logotype is an arrow leading from A to Z, representing customer satisfaction (as it forms a smile) and the goal to have every product in the alphabet.
In 1994, the company incorporated in the state of Washington, beginning service in July 1995, and was reincorporated in 1996 in Delaware. The first book Amazon.com sold was Douglas Hofstadter's Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought. Amazon.com issued its initial public offering of stock on May 15, 1997, trading under the NASDAQ stock exchange symbol AMZN, at an IPO price of US$18.00 per share ($1.50 after three stock splits in the late 1990s).
Amazon's initial business plan was unusual: the company did not expect a profit for four to five years; the strategy was effective. Amazon grew steadily in the late 1990s while other Internet companies grew blindingly fast. Amazon's "slow" growth provoked stockholder complaints: that the company was not reaching profitability fast enough. When the dot-com bubble burst, and many e-companies went out of business, Amazon persevered, and, finally, turned its first profit in the fourth quarter of 2001: $5 million, just 1¢ per share, on revenues of more than $1 billion, but the profit was symbolically important.
The company remains profitable: 2003 net income was $35.3 million, $588.50 million in 2004, $359 million in 2005, and $190 million in 2006 (including a $662 million charge for R&D in 2006), nevertheless, the firm's cumulative profits remain negative. As of September 2007, the accumulated deficit stood at $1.58 billion. Revenues increased thanks to product diversification and an international presence: $3.9 billion in 2002, $5.3 billion in 2003, $6.9 billion in 2004, $8.5 billion in 2005, and $10.7 billion in 2006.
On November 21, 2005, Amazon entered the S&P 500 index, replacing AT&T after it merged with SBC Communications. On December 31, 2008, Amazon entered the S&P 100 index, replacing Merrill Lynch after it was taken over by Bank of America.
In 1999, Time magazine named Bezos Person of the Year, recognizing the company's success in popularizing on-line shopping.
The Web site CDNOW (cdnow.com) is powered and hosted by Amazon. Until June 30, 2006, typing ToysRUs.com into a browser would similarly bring up Amazon.com's Toys & Games tab; however, this relationship was terminated as the result of a lawsuit.
Amazon.com powers and operates retail web sites for Target, Sears Canada, Benefit Cosmetics, Bebe Stores, Timex Corporation, Marks & Spencer, Mothercare, and Lacoste. For a growing number of enterprise clients, currently including the UK merchants Marks & Spencer, Benefit Cosmetics' UK entity and Mothercare, Amazon provides a unified multichannel platform whence a customer can interchangeably interact with the retail website, standalone in-store terminals, and phone-based customer service agents. Amazon Web Services also powers AOL's Shop@AOL.
The company's global headquarters is located on Seattle's Beacon Hill. It has offices throughout other parts of greater Seattle including Union Station and The Columbia Center.
Amazon has announced plans to move its headquarters to the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle beginning in mid-2010, with full occupancy by 2011. This move will consolidate all Seattle employees onto the new 11-building campus.
Software development centers
The company employs software developers in medium- to large-sized centers across the globe. While most of Amazon's software development is in Seattle, other locations include:
- Slough (United Kingdom)
- Edinburgh (United Kingdom)
- Dublin (Ireland)
- Bangalore, Chennai, and Hyderabad (India)
- Cape Town (South Africa)
- Iaşi (Romania)
- Shibuya (Tokyo, Japan)
- Beijing (China)
- Tempe, Arizona (United States)