Benner on Tech: Amazon Is Reliably Indifferent to Our Concerns

Katie Benner is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about technology, innovation, and the cult and culture of Silicon Valley. She lives in San Francisco.
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People are Talking About…

Amazon eked out a profit, but in true Amazon style the company refused to tell shareholders much about its plans for the future. The company's call was a hilarious Beckett-like exercise during which executives made sure to reiterate, mostly by not saying anything substantive, that they really don't care much about Wall Street concerns like profits and clarity around business plans.

Beyond the insouciance, I did note two, sort-of related things: capex on data centers and AWS.

The company is in an arms race of sorts with Microsoft and Google, which said this quarter that they’re spending lots of money on real estate and data centers. It’s something akin to “if you build, it they will come.” Everyone knows that businesses will eventually move some part of their operation to the cloud, and that they will probably use a business like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft’s Azure or Google to help with that shift. So these companies are building out capacity now in anticipation of growth.

It’s smart. They have the cash (or, in Amazon’s case, the cash flow) to spend, and this isn't a terrible way to spend it. It’s better, probably, than mystery barges and Fire phones.

The company also made people happy when it announced plans to break out Amazon Web Services as a separate category in its financial statements. AWS is among the company’s fastest growing divisions. It has more than 1 million customers, and it’s considered a leader in cloud computing.

That the top public-cloud vendor has been able to operate in relative darkness for so long is, when you think about it, a little strange given how important the category is to the tech industry. But it’s also very Amazon, so at least it feels like there’s some consistency there. 

** Earnings round up:

* Google missed fourth-quarter sales and profit estimates and faced more competition on mobile devices, Bloomberg reports. I argue that the company needs to start issuing a dividend.

* Visa beat earnings expectations and announced a 4-for-1 stock split, sending shares up in after hours trading, USA Today reports.

* Alibaba’s revenue missed expectations. The Wall Street Journal has the key takeaways from the company’s analyst call.


Spotify is raising more money with the help of Goldman Sachs and could delay an IPO for another year, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Aspiro, which owns the Tidal music-streaming service, may be acquired by a company owned by Jay-Z, according to VentureBeat.

Cyanogen, a software startup that wants to loosen Google’s control over Android, is raising a new round of funding that Microsoft will participate in, Bloomberg reports.

Ouya, a video-game-console maker, received a $10 million investment from Alibaba that could help the company expand in Asia, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Uber is being sued in the U.S. by the passenger who alleges that she was raped by a driver in Delhi, Reuters reports.

* Related: The Wall Street Journal has a good primer on the laws that are springing up to regulate ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft.

People and Personnel Moves

Chrys Bader-Wechseler, a cofounder of Secret, is leaving the anonymous messaging company.

Joe Lonsdale, a partner at venture capital firm Formation 8, has been accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment in a civil lawsuit filed by a former Formation 8 intern, TechCrunch reports. Lonsdale denied the charges and plans to countersue.



The company’s video game streaming website Twitch more than doubled its monthly viewers over the past year to 100 million from 45 million, Re/code reports.


** The company is testing a service that uses small transmitters to deliver local information about shops and landmarks, the Wall Street Journal reports.

** Teehan+Lax, a Toronto-based design firm best known for its work with Medium, will shut down and the design team will join Facebook, reports the Next Web.


The search giant has agreed to change how it collects personal data in the UK and to change its privacy policy to be in line with the U.K.’s Data Protection Act, TechCrunch reports.


Jack Dorsey tweetstormed his support for Twitter and its CEO Dick Costolo, reports USA Today.

Cybersecurity Blotter

A cybersecurity incubator just launched in London called Cyber London or CyLon for short, TechCrunch reports.

Reddit received 55 requests for user information, and it complied with 58 percent of government and civil requests, Computerworld reports.

Metadata pulled from shopping records can expose a person’s identity and circumvent database privacy protections, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Media Files

Buzzfeed has undeniably changed the media landscape, but the Wall Street Journal says that a sea of competitors such as Vox, Vice, Mashable and Business Insider are putting added pressure on the company to prove that its growth model, native ad strategy and use of social media are all sustainable.

The NBA has partnered with Tencent to be the organization’s exclusive online partner in China, the Wall Street Journal reports.

News and Notes

China is cracking down on V.P.N.s used to circumvent the so-called Great Firewall, the New York Times reports.

The FTC shut down a revenge porn website, but didn’t impose any fine on the site’s creator Craig Brittain, reports GigaOm.

The FCC will soon review deals struck between ISPs and companies such as Netflix, which would expand the commission’s authority, Bloomberg reports.

The FCC also changed the minimum requirements for broadband speeds, the Verge reports.

During the Super Bowl there will be a drone no-fly zone in the 30-mile radius around the University of Phoenix stadium, GigaOm reports.

Bitcoins were traced from the Silk Road marketplace to the computer of Ross Ulbricht, a former federal agent testified during Ulbricht’s trial, according to Wired.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.