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Economy

'It's Day One'- Jeff Bezos Takes Stock

In a sit-down with France's top business daily Les Echos, Amazon founder Bezos reflects on the pure speed of innovation on the Internet, and why the “posture” of consumption can change everything.

He knows something that we don't (jurvetson)
He knows something that we don't (jurvetson)
Francois Bourboulon

SEATTLE - In a rich and wide-ranging conversation with the digital editor-in-chief of France's leading business daily Les Echos, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, 47, reflects on the lightening fast evolution of the Internet, and his company's ability to compete in everything from e-commerce to media to cloud computing. And his plans for the future: trying to figure out what big things are going to change -- and what won't.

People in the U.S. now spend more time on mobile apps than on the Web. How far do you think we are in the digital revolution? Somewhere in the middle?
I doubt it. We're just at the beginning. Day One. Don't you think?

I don't know. You're the expert.
I think so. With new technologies, it's very tempting to think that you're further along than you are. But usually, you're more primitive than you think. My guess is we're still pretty primitive. We as a society, as a civilization. I doubt we have figured out the new technologies very well yet.

And as Amazon, where are you ?
We're the same. We're part of that civilization (laughs). We're doing our part in trying to push things forward, but I have the feeling it's Day One.

What has been the most stunning change since you founded Amazon in 1995?
The most amazing change… Looking at over 15 years, the most stunning is the pace at which the Internet has developed. In 1995, I had to raise a million dollars from 22 angel investors who invested around $50,000 each to fund Amazon, and the question all those investors had was "what's the Internet ?" That was just 16 years ago… It's been such an extraordinary change, we've never seen a change that rapid. Go back and look at other major technological changes, jet travel, the automobile, radio, television, the telephone: you can look at their growth rate, and nothing has ever swept in as quickly and as globally as the Internet. If you want something that qualifies as stunning, that's probably a first in the history of civilization.

And what will be the next stunning change in the digital world ?
That is difficult question. I spend most of my time trying to find what the Internet is not going to change… Because we can build business plans on things that are stable, but it's harder to build a business plan on something that is going to change rapidly. But if I stay focused on your question and say what's going change over the next 10 years, it's probably mobile technology, wireless technology. These smart phones and tablets that we have today are going to become increasingly sophisticated.

Does it worry you?
No. It delights me ! (laughs) It's great for retail business. Historically, our business has been built on top of people buying from their desktop computer and their laptop computer, which you can only use in a couple of postures. And the tablets and the smartphones open up a completely new posture. The tablet for example means you can lay back on your sofa and shop on Amazon. I love that and I encourage you to do it ! (laughs)

Today, Amazon is retailing, and merchant, and cloud, and Kindle, and food, and Amazon studios… Are you a specialist of anything ?
At the broadest level, I think there are three things that define Amazon, and they are cultural attributes more than business areas. One is customer obsession, as opposed to competitor obsession. A lot of companies have been successful on focusing on their competitors, but that's not our way. Second, is willingness to think long-term and third is willingness to invent, which includes the willingness to be misunderstood, otherwise you can't invent.

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Geopolitics

Our 'Emotional' Divide: How The Ukraine War Reveals A World Broken In Two

Russia's invasion has created a stark global divide: them and us. On one side are the countries refusing to condemn Moscow, with the West on the other. It's a dangerous split that could have repercussions far into the future.

Protesters against the war in Ukraine demonstrate in front of the Russian embassy in London

Dominique Moïsi

-Analysis-

PARIS — "The West and the Rest of Us." That's the title of a 1975 essay written by Nigerian essayist and critic Chinweizu Ibekwe. I've been thinking about his words as the war in Ukraine both reveals and accelerates divisions of the world that I believe are ultimately "emotional" in nature.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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With war returning to Europe and the risk of escalation, there is a gap between the Western view and that of the "others," a distinct "us and them." This gap cannot be explained in strictly geographical, political, and economic terms.

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