Is Jeff Bezos the new Steve Jobs?

Amazon takes control of the tablet and new-media conversation.

By TheStreet Staff Sep 7, 2012 10:36AM

TheStreet.comBy Rocco Pendola

 

I'll let TheStreet.com's Chris Ciaccia very ably provide the details, but if it wasn't already obvious, Amazon.com (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos proved that Apple (AAPL) will slowly morph from greatness to just being good in the absence of Steve Jobs.

 

Bezos pulled the tech equivalent of peppering a backup goaltender with hockey pucks as he introduced Kindle after Kindle with feature after feature, bell after bell and whistle after whistle Thursday. It's as if Tim Cook stepped in for starter Steve Jobs and Bezos told the defense to blitz on every play.

 

No matter what Apple's forthcoming iPhone 5 event brings, there's no way Cook was prepared for what Bezos just threw at him.

 

For the past year I have argued that Amazon has no interest in competing against Apple. I was probably correct, but I did miss something critical.

 

Bezos wanted no part of a competition against Apple when Jobs was alive. Now Bezos has decided to pounce, with full force, on Apple when it's most vulnerable.

 

In the short term it doesn't seem sensible to classify Apple as "vulnerable." But move beyond the immediate pipeline and it's clear this company simply cannot triumph product after product as it did under Jobs' leadership.

 

Just use Apple TV as a case in point.

 

As I explained most recently in mid-August, Tim Cook has no idea how to move forward with Apple TV. On Thursday, Bloomberg, for all intents and purposes, confirmed my speculation.

 

It reports that, while it might have the design down, Apple can't seem to get anywhere with the old-guard media on content and delivery.

 

Simply put, television executives saw what happened with iTunes. They're not about to end up like the music industry.

 

With Jobs at the negotiating table, Apple might have had a fighting chance. Under Cook, it's left with a downright pathetic decision to make: Do we produce a glorified DVR player or continue to delay this product?.

 

Apple TV should probably end up where Jobs probably wishes Ping did: On the cutting-room floor.

 

Jobs claimed he had the living room figured out. It appears he moved the furniture around and turned the lights off on Cook before he left.

 

Think of Apple TV as a poster child for what has happened to the DNA of this company. Apple pays a dividend. It misses a quarter. It airs and pulls lame retail ads. It overhauls Apple Store staff, only to reverse that decision as well. It's all evidence of a company losing the way that made it beyond great.

 

The "A" player left the team. As much as I love the Big Man, Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band hums along stronger than ever even after the death of saxaphonist Clarence Clemons. While I would not call him a "B" player, you can replace Clemons but not Springsteen. That's the way you have to view practically everybody else in the world, let alone within Apple, against Steve Jobs.

 

Everybody except Jeff Bezos, of course.

 

As Bezos produced hit after hit at Amazon's event Thursday, Eric Savitz of Forbes tweeted:

 

@savitz 40 minutes into the Amazon launch today, Jeff Bezos is still the only one to appear on stage. Is he the new Steve Jobs?

 

My response: Yes. He has been for some time.

 

In fact, the two men have probably been equals all along.

 

Bezos weaves genius like only Jobs could.

 

Consider this stepped-up competition. It's still secondary to Amazon's core and winning long-term strategy.

 

Bezos said all the right things on Thursday:

 

We don't produce gadgets, we create services. We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy them.

 

That's the type of talk that separates Amazon from practically everybody in tech today, including a Tim Cook-led Apple.

 

Miraculously, Bezos' leadership has helped Amazon maintain the unwavering tunnel vision of a startup for more than a decade. Practically everything Amazon does exists to not only drive revenue to its core, but situate it for long-term -- measured in decades, not years -- profitability. Amazon responds to nobody. It dictates the flow of the spaces it chooses to run in, keeping hyper-focus on e-commerce.

 

Meantime, Apple prepares to coattail on the only remaining parts of Steve Jobs' legacy it can as the company prepares to launch another iPhone.

 

From there, Tim Cook introduces the first product not approved by Steve Jobs. In fact, the last we heard Jobs despised the idea. A mini-iPad.

 

Before the year's up, we'll watch Apple react as opposed to act. That should scare you as an Apple fan. It frightens me, particularly after watching the Jobsian-style show Jeff Bezos put on.

 

More from TheStreet.com

3Comments
Sep 7, 2012 11:05AM
avatar

What a fawning column. The writer(s) should be sure to ask Bezos to anoint them with his blessing! But I digress.

 

Every dog has his day -- MSFT/Gates; AAPL/Jobs; AMZN/Bezos.

 

Enjoy the ride. As with life itself, it never lasts all that long.

Sep 7, 2012 2:30PM
avatar

"'We don't produce gadgets, we create services'...That's the type of talk that separates Amazon from practically everybody in tech today, including a Tim Cook-led Apple."

 

Your article sounds like a political commentator praising the virtues of a candidate's speech, when in reality we should be judging Amazon and any company on its results and prospective future results not on how much "we loved their presentation".  And if not, at least save the man-crush for the leader of a company that has achieved profitability in line with your praise.  Amazon has not and the "growing revenues with profit always around the corner" case has worn thin the more "corners" we have seen around over the past few years. 

 

What is more these well-touted products, including the content sales that are supposed to be their saving grace, do not necessarily bring the desperately needed profits that put real CASH in the bank.  This is even assuming that they sell well, which I can definitely see happening but is not a given in terms of this marketplace.

 

Apple has been and will continue to be profitable, and I believe you along with a lot of people use any post-Jobs issue to put down Tim Cook and reminisce about the deity of Steve Jobs.  Every company has issues, including Apple and including the Jobs era.  Anybody with any sense of the market would also agree that Apple would be facing the same challenges with TV-content providers and the exact same competition from these other companies at this point, regardless of who was at the helm. 

 

Your article makes it sound as if Amazon only gained the courage to apply pressure to the largest and most successful technology company in the world after Jobs' departure.  This is ludicrous and demeans the very man you are trying to exalt -- market forces are always at work and every  company is looking to knock off the "king of the hill" and get a larger piece of the pie. 

 

I am certainly not trying to pump up Apple or even put down Amazon, but I have seen better articles from you and I believe this large and quality of a forum deserves more content and less worship.

Sep 7, 2012 1:54PM
avatar

Im getting ready to buy an Ipad after I see what Sept brings for us.  Kindle is a non starter for me.  I think the article summed it up perfectly:

 

"We don't produce gadgets, we create services. We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy them.

That's the type of talk that separates Amazon from practically everybody in tech today, including a Tim Cook-led Apple."

 

I don't want a service.  I want a product that I can buy, that I can use and once I pay my entry fee, I dont really have to worry about being nickle and dimed to death over it.  You may end up buying an inferior Kindle at 100 bucks less, but you end up spending thousands by buying into the "services" that are needed.  No thank you. 

 

As for Apple TV.  IF Apple could get the same kinds of contracts they did for Itunes and music, we, the people, would be far better off.  However, we are in an industry where content providers severely over value their products.  The Music industry made their own mistakes.  Price fixing cds at $15.00.  Inhibiting the coming media wave.  What did they really expect to happen?  They should have embraced the new era instead of having to be brought, kicking and screaming, into it.  TV/Media is making the same mistakes, just to a lesser degree. 

 

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