Amazon and the M-Word

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
It has suddenly become trendy to use "the M-word" when discussing Amazon. Yes, you know the word I mean. I almost don't even want to say it... but here it goes... Microsoft.

I'm not sure when the Microsoft / Bill Gates / 1990s comparisons started, but it is definitely in vogue right now. I suspect Brad Stone's biography of Amazon, Everything Store, has contributed to the comparison. I also think AWS re:Invent may have helped fuel the fire, as Amazon came across as exactly what it is: a highly innovative, highly dominant, and highly aggressive market leader in "the single greatest disruption of our lifetime" (from Andy Jassy's keynote). You only needed to watch the body language of Citrix's chief evangelist as he was grilled on Amazon's announcement of WorkSpaces, to understand the power of the Amazon cloud war machine.

But behind all the talk, the dirty little secret is that most software developers have a soft spot in their heart for Amazon. Why? They freed us from the interminable prison of IT and their physical infrastructure. I still cringe remembering the days of hardware requisition forms, product back orders, and long waits for IT to rack and stack my hardware.

But when I think about Amazon and "the M-word", I can't help but recall a chapter in Everything Store that recounts a memo Jeff Bezos wrote to his executive team called "Amazon.love". The memo was a prescient introspection into how Amazon could avoid following the path of current and former bad guy corporations, such as Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and Goldman Sachs. The memo outlines what works and does not work for a corporate culture. Here it is in its entirety:

  • Rudeness is not cool.
  • Defeating tiny guys is not cool.
  • Close-following is not cool.
  • Young is cool.
  • Risk taking is cool.
  • Winning is cool.
  • Polite is cool.
  • Defeating bigger, unsympathetic guys is cool.
  • Inventing is cool.
  • Explorers are cool.
  • Conquerors are not cool.
  • Obsessing over competitors is not cool.
  • Empowering others is cool.
  • Capturing all the value only for the company is not cool.
  • Leadership is cool.
  • Conviction is cool.
  • Straightforwardness is cool.
  • Pandering to the crowd is not cool.
  • Hypocrisy is not cool.
  • Authenticity is cool.
  • Thinking big is cool.
  • The unexpected is cool.
  • Missionaries are cool.
  • Mercenaries are not cool.

He forgot one though: disrupting the bureaucracy of corporate IT is cool.