Amazon & Jeff Bezos
"We Start With the Customer and We Work Backward."
Jeff Bezos on Amazon's success.
By Daniel LyonsPosted Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009, at 10:13 AM ET
This conversation appears in Newsweek's "Interview" issue. To read more of the magazine's interviews with the year's biggest newsmakers, go to http://doc.wendoc.com.
No one has been more surprised by the success of the Kindle than Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The electronic book reader has become the online retailer's best-selling product. Bezos spoke to Newsweek's Daniel Lyons about the device, how the Apple tablet might affect it, and the next phase of digital distribution. Here are excerpts from their talk:
Bezos: It is the basics. It is focusing on selection, low prices, and reliable, convenient, fast delivery. It's the cumulative effect of having this approach for 14 years. I always tell people, if we have a good quarter it's because of the work we did three, four, and five years ago. It's not because we did a good job this quarter.
Lyons: Amazon started off as a retailer. Now you're also selling computing services, and you're in the consumer-electronics business with the Kindle. How do you define what Amazon is today? Bezos: We start with the customer and we work backward. We learn whatever skills we need to service the customer. We build whatever technology we need to service the customer. The second thing is, we are inventors, so you won't see us focusing on "me too" areas. We like to go down unexplored alleys（小巷；小路）and see what's at the end. Sometimes they're dead ends. Sometimes they open up into broad avenues and we find something really exciting. And then the third thing is, we're willing to be long-term-oriented, which I think is one of the rarest characteristics. If you look at the corporate world, a genuine focus on the long term is not that common. But a lot of the most important things we've done have taken a long time.
Lyons: You've talked about Kindle being this example of working backward from the customer. Can you explain that?
Bezos: There are two ways that companies can extend what they're doing. One is they can take an inventory of their skills and competencies, and then they can say, "OK, with this set of skills and