how amazon built the echo

The Echo, originally called the Flash, has a captivating origin story. (Or at least captivating to yours truly, who is also knee deep in the consumer electronics development process.)

From scope creep impacting the BOM:

As originally conceived, the Echo was simpler and cheaper than the speaker in its current form. One person who worked on the project remembers that the company expected to be able to manufacture the devices for about $17 and sell them for $50. It now costs $180, and Amazon is believed to take a loss on each sale, once packaging, shipping, and marketing are factored in.

To scheduling issues:

Even as these fundamental changes went on, the lab’s leadership was convinced the speaker was almost ready. For three consecutive years, the product was expected to ship within six months.

And all the politics present while trying to be the innovative new product team in a large company:

“We spent so much time trying to anticipate what Jeff would do or say, and read into little words he would say in meetings,” said one former employee. “It would lead to so much additional work.”

Well worth the read.

amazon v netflix

The Seattle online retailer said Sunday it will begin offering its video-streaming service as a stand-alone option for the first time. A monthly subscription will cost $8.99, a dollar less than the most popular plan from Netflix.

Highlighting its ruthlessly competitive streak, Amazon is rolling out the new streaming-video option on the eve of Netflix’s first-quarter earnings report Monday.

Game on.

bezos on decision making

from the annual Amazon shareholder letter:

One common pitfall for large organizations – one that hurts speed and inventiveness – is “one-size-fits-all” decision making.

Some decisions are consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible – one-way doors – and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation. If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before. We can call these Type 1 decisions. But most decisions aren’t like that – they are changeable, reversible – they’re two-way doors. If you’ve made a suboptimal Type 2 decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgment individuals or small groups.

As organizations get larger, there seems to be a tendency to use the heavy-weight Type 1 decision-making process on most decisions, including many Type 2 decisions. The end result of this is slowness, unthoughtful risk aversion, failure to experiment sufficiently, and consequently diminished invention. We’ll have to figure out how to fight that tendency.

I could benefit from keeping this in mind day-to-day...