The December 2011 issue of Wired is out, with a photo of the left half of Jeff Bezos' face on the cover. I was excited about this issue, because I wanted to read about the moves Amazon.com [and my Amazon WishList] is making to be a cloud content provider in addition to seller of books and anything else you can find in a supermarket or shopping mall.
Instead, I was disappointed.
The article by longtime tech writer Stephen Levy repeated some tiresome comparisons between Amazon and Apple. Amazon is content company, right? Because it makes most of its money selling more content things, both real (like books, shoes, and DVDs) and electronic (like ebooks and streaming movies). Yep, it's not a hardware company, though its big news right now is hardware in the form of the Kindle Fire.
And Apple isn't a content company, right?
Because it makes most of its money selling hardware things, like computers and mobile tablets and smartphones. Yes, it's not a content company, even though its current big news is user content management in the form of launching iCloud.
The article also disappointed because all too soon it descends into a Q&A dialog that doesn't grab me. It doesn't talk enough about the Amazon consumer experience and what might be coming down the pike. The most I learn about consumer experiences at Amazon is that Amazon really doesn't like to talk to me on the phone, really is not proud of being a profit-making enterprise, would offer single pricing for movie streaming if, gosh, only the movie content providers would agree, and seems more head-in-the-clouds than futuristic.
There's an ethereal quality to Bezos that bothers me, and I'm trying to put my finger on why.
It's not so much his interest spaceflight, via Blue Origin. Thanks to being my son's father (see Rob Davidoff's blog, Engineer in Progress), I'm totally rational about private enterprise interest in space exploration in earth orbit, return to the moon, and visiting Mars. But instead of a 10,000-year clock, I'd like advocacy for a climate policy that thinks about survival of the planet in 100 years, a thousand years, or ten thousand years. A 10,000-year clock is romantic until you try to build it. Then it sounds like the profoundly ridiculous supercomputer that developed the significance of "42" and everything else in The Ultimate Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Didn't that computer ponder for 10,000 years? Or was it 100,000?
In contrast, take a look at the last promotional tease on Wired's December 2011 cover, at the bottom right corner of the photo. The memories of Steve Jobs in this issue are more compelling than the cover feature on Bezos. Even Levy's lead-off remembrance is more compelling. I think it's because Jobs did not see his products as expensive so much as he saw them as enabling amazing consumer experiences and interactions. His products hardly bored him. Maybe my problem is that Jeff Bezos seems bored with his amazing Amazon, at least in its day-to-day relationship with its customers.
Or maybe my problem is, simply, the cover photo itself. Looking at people in the left eye is powerful. Perhaps the dialog in the article simply doesn't probe into the depths of that monocle on the cover.