Right now Andy Jassy can write off the Prime Air losses as a Bezos-folly, but any commitment to keep this project up in the air, so to speak, for another decade would be either a very brave or very reckless decision.
Amazon’s fabled drone delivery system has yet to get approval to fly over residential areas and so far has only delivered to a handful of paid-to-participate customers living 1,500 yards away. The first drone project layoffs have already begun.
Wired has a must-read full report on an Amazon project that promises to out-fail the Fire Phone project.
Let me share this from many disturbing examples in the Wired report:
“When a crucial 18601B exemption finally came through for Amazon in November 2022, it was not what Prime Air executives had hoped for. Any operations ‘over people,’ ‘over roadways,’ and within ‘100 feet laterally from any person during all phases of flight’ required special approval from an FAA administrator. Visual observers, as before, needed to keep a line of sight on the drones from launch to landing. Observers also had to notify the pilot of any obstructions that posed a risk to operation, such as stray dogs, hobbyist drones, kites, and children.”
To be clear, Amazon is insisting the drone project is as exciting for them now as ten years ago. But they would say that, wouldn’t they.
Failure, of course, is part and parcel of business development. What matters is that the successes outnumber the fails and that the losses are kept containable. Like the $170 million that went down the pan with the Fire Phone.
But the Prime Air project has yet to notch a single commercial success on its bedpost. And that $2 billion already invested for very little return will need a lot more cash to join it if Prime Air is ever to become a commercial reality.
Andy Jassy may have other thoughts privately, as he struggles to get the corporation back on track. Right now he can write off the losses as a Bezos-folly, but any commitment to keep this project up in the air, so to speak, for another decade would be either a very brave or very reckless decision.
For the publishing industry, it’s just one more reminder that the mighty Amazon has no Midas Touch, and given Jassy has made clear the books sector of Amazon is considered a weak link, publishers really ought to be seriously looking at reducing their exposure by giving more backing to other platforms that enable publishers to reach consumers.
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