August 22, 2019

Amazon is becoming the People's Republic of China

A while back, I semi-joked, but only semi, that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was the Mao Zedong of his company.

Well, it's time to not joke at all.

Apparently taking a page from Chinese manufacturing companies who, with government approval, force American companies to reveal trade secrets in order to manufacture in China under joint ventures, Amazon built a microwave last year.

Old news, right? Still deserves a look.

First, who the hell needs an Alexa-powered microwave? It reinforces "lazy American" stereotypes. In addition, the fact that the microwave, via Amazon's Dash, can re-order more microwave popcorn (from Amazon, natch) reinforces the Internet of Things spying on us.

But, neither of those is the People's Republic angle. What follows is.

Basically, Amazon looked at prices on Amazon for basic-level microwaves, reverse-engineered one to hold an Alexa, and priced it at or below those other prices.

So, if I make a Braun coffeemaker, what's to stop Amazon from doing that there? Or a GE dishwasher?

Now, I'm not sure if dishwashers sell on Amazon, but I know coffeemakers do. And the new Chairman Mao is right now looking at other small appliances to determine which this would work best on.

So, are you supposed to try to avoid Amazon?

And, that's just with name brands.

Dash itself is the subject of antitrust legal action in Germany, as Ian Bogost reports, but that's the tip of the iceberg. The real issue, as he describes it, is quality of product and quality of service are both uneven because it's a "giant digital flea market." Kind of like First Monday with poorer quality?

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