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Cybersecurity

The Cloud: Battle of the Tech Titans

Amazon.com's (AMZN) squat Seattle headquarters looks nothing like the country club affairs found in Silicon Valley. There are no free soft drinks or volleyball courts. The light fixtures hanging from the ceiling in the reception area aren't fixtures at all but rather collections of extension cords fitted with bulbs. The receptionists lack computerized systems for registering guests. They simply write down visitors' names on a piece of paper. Such is low-margin life in online retail, where Wal-Mart (WMT) stands at the ready, waiting to take away your extension cords.

Most people recognize this Amazon: Jeff Bezos's hyperproficient Borders-killer; one of the few dot-com initial public offerings that didn't end up a punch line; fount of millions of smiling cardboard boxes bearing everything from dildos to diapers. Sitting in a sparsely decorated employee cafeteria, Andy Jassy pitches a newer if equally thrifty side of the e-tailing giant. Although all shoppers are welcome, this Amazon, he explains, is for business customers and isn't well marked on the home page. It's called Amazon Web Services, or AWS. As senior vice-president, Jassy heads up AWS, which rents out computing power for pennies an hour. "This completely levels the playing field," Jassy boasts.