Books, CDs, DVDS-Oh, My!

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Books, CDs, DVDS-Oh, My!

Founded in 1994, Amazon started selling books online in 1995 but added CDs, DVDS and plenty more throughout the rest of the 1990s. Amazon thrived even as erstwhile e-commerce challengers fell by the wayside after the dot-com bubble burst. Amazon would finally show a profit in 2001: $5 million, or a penny a share, on sales of more than $1 billion.

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Amazon Web Services

Amazon signaled it's a serious Web technology company when it launched Amazon Web Services, or at least the start of what would become that suite with Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) in March 2006. The company would also unveil Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS), a distributed queue messaging service. Then, most significantly, Amazon introduced the Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) to serve as a virtual Website farm that would soon make it the premier platform-as-a-service (PaaS) provider. Google would add App Engine in 2008 to compete with Amazon. Amazon's PaaS infrastructure has grown in size and sophistication to the point that it just launched the Cluster Compute Eight Extra Large, which ranked No. 42 on the Top 500 supercomputing list.

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Amazon Instant Video

Using its own Web services infrastructure, Amazon jumped into the streaming movie and TV game with Amazon Unbox in September 2006. The service would be renamed Amazon Video on Demand in 2008 before settling in as Amazon Instant Video in 2011. Interestingly, it's a major application on Google TV. Indeed, Amazon beat both Google and Apple to streaming movies.

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Amazon signaled its intent to compete with Apple's iTunes music store with its MP3 music download store, launched in September 2007.

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Kindle e-Reader

Amazon surprised many people by launching a consumer electronics device, the Kindle in November 2007, which demonstrated the company's intent to make a go of it in the consumer electronics market for electronic reading devices. The Kindle uses E-Ink technology rather than backlighting to reduce battery consumption and make long-term reading kinder to the eyes. The device pictured here is the third-generation Kindle. Every year, the price on the device gets a little lower. The first Kindle cost $399 in 2007; today, the company is selling a base WiFi model for $79. There are also keyboard, touch interface, 3G and taking a page out of Google's playbook, ad-supported models.

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If Amazon were only a bookseller, it might have stopped at the Kindle, but it didnt. It sells music, movies and more. The company in March 2011 signaled it had bigger plans for offering consumers mobile content with the launch of its Amazon Appstore for Android smartphones and tablets. This is Amazon's declaration of war against Google's own Android Market and competes to a lesser degree with Apple's App Store.

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Cloud Player, Cloud Drive

Roughly one week after launching the Android Appstore, Amazon set its sights on Google and Apple again, launching the Cloud Drive storage locker and Cloud Player streaming music service. Google would later launch a Music Beta music locker and recently released a streaming music service. Apple has just launched iTunes Match cloud music service.

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Go With the Flow

It seems minor compared to some of the other initiatives, but Amazon Nov. 2 launched Flow Powered by Amazon, an application that lets users point their iPhone's camera at the UPC codes affixed to books, DVDs, video games and millions of other products to pull up additional information about the products on their mobile devices. Flow is something of a blend of the Google Goggles visual search application and the Google Shopper e-commerce app.

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Kindle Fire

Since Amazon decided it wasnt content to just sell e-readers, it decided that perhaps offering a full-scale tablet that had access to music, movies and its other content services was a smart way to go. Indeed, Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos (pictured) views the new Kindle Fire as just another vehicle with which Amazon can distribute content and services. The Fire launched Nov. 14 to those who preordered it, and a day later for those who didn't. This custom Android tablet could provide a challenge to Apple's iPad and will certainly take market share from existing Android OEMS.

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Kindle Phone Calling

Could Amazon be brewing a super-secret Android phone in its labs? Why not? It has the application store to support it. You'd fairly ask why Google would do this, when there are so many other Android OEMs out there. Amazon could do for the phone what it did for the Kindle Fire-tightly integrate its Web services on an Android-based phone. Maybe the smartphone isn't the ideal platform for reading, but as mobile shopping and payments get more prevalent, Amazon doesn't want to miss that boat.

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