Inside Amazon - December 29th, 2016

Inside Amazon (Dec 29th, 2016)

AMZN Stock Price: $722.13 (yesterday), $762.52 (30 days ago), $829.05 (90 days), $693.67 (1 year) 
Police in Bentonville, Arkansas investigating a murder want Amazon to turn over any audio that the Echo device at the scene of the crime may have recorded during the incident. Amazon has refused the request, citing their policy not to release customer information without a “valid and binding legal demand.” At issue is the fact that the police report proceeds from an apparent misunderstanding about how Echo's virtual assistant Alexa works: A fraction of a second before the wake word (usually “Alexa”) is spoken, the Echo starts recording and uploading audio to Amazon. However, the police report itself mentions that Alexa may be in fact be recording audio “at all times,” a charge Amazon denies. We’ll continue to track this story as it develops. (This reportage is from the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.) – WAPO

Amazon has been awarded a patent for an “airborne fulfillment center” (AFC), a kind of flying warehouse inside an airship. The AFC system works in concert with shipping drones, which will fly into the airship and pick up their deliveries. The drones won’t be able to reach the altitude of 45,000 feet that the airship will persist at, so shuttles will be a third player in the chain, bringing squads of drones to and from the AFCs as well as restocking or adding items to the airborne inventories. The move may be another step for Amazon as it gets closer to figuring out a plan for delivering its products without the involvement of outside shipping and logistics companies. – FORTUNE

Amazon is debuting a “Digital Day” sale for tomorrow, December 30th. That means discounts of up to 50% on digital items like music, e-books, games, TV shows, and apps. Enough digital devices went out as holiday gifts to ensure a surge in demand for content. Details about the sale aren’t entirely clear yet, but the promotion follows July’s second annual “Prime Day” event, a warehouse-clearer that was Amazon’s biggest-ever day in sales. – ENGADGET

Amazon shipped more than one billion items between November 1st and December 19th, making it their biggest holiday season for sales yet. That’s five times more product than was moved by the company last year over the same period. Credited are the popularity of the Echo Dot, which Amazon priced to move, as well as the company’s last-minute holiday shipping offers. (On Christmas Eve, Amazon says the fastest delivery took only 13 minutes, and the final delivery – of NyQuil and nasal spray – was made to a customer in Irvine, CA at 11:59 pm.) – CNET

Another large piece of Seattle's Denny Triangle neighborhood has been bought up by Amazon, pointing to a fifth monolith for the new campus. The newly bought land is across the street from Day One, the recently opened second campus tower. Three large orb-shaped campus buildings share the block Day One sits on, and are expected to open by early 2018. (The three orbs will host more than 300 species of plants in an indoor forest that will presumably look a little like the geodesic domes from 1972's eco-themed sci-fi cult classic, "Silent Running.") – GEEKWIRE

Amazon's password-free ordering abetted six-year-old Ashlynd Howell's hacking of her mother's smartphone, and her subsequent ordering of $250 worth of Pokemon merchandise. While Howell's mother slumbered on the couch, little Ashlynd gently used mom's thumb to access the smartphone and the Amazon app. When cornered by her parents and asked if she had accidentally made the 13 orders, the little girl proudly replied that she had in fact been shopping. Amazon only accepted returns for four of the items. – USATODAY

The Wall Street Journal profiles a few of the roughly 22 million American primary household shoppers that don't use Amazon. The Amazon "holdouts" tend to be older than the average US shopper, make less money than average, and have no children in the household. Internet connectivity is also an obvious and major factor, as a certain percentage of the economy is "locked out because of the digital divide." – WSJ


If any of our readers have any "big questions" they'd like to ask our Amazon expert, William Tjernlund, send them along by hitting REPLY to this e-mail and Will will answer one or two for next Thursday's issue. And thanks for reading!

William Tjernlund is an experienced Amazon seller and consultant. To learn more about him, check out this interview.

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