The Zeitgeist
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The Zeitgeist

Jan. 28-Feb. 3: Tech Hydra Amazon Takes On Healthcare and Convenient Stores

Amazon announced that they’re entering the healthcare industry this week, topping off a historically successful and busy month for the behemoth.

Welcome to the Zeitgeist Chronicle. Every weekend we catch you up on the past week’s most noteworthy current events. Sometimes it’ll be what everybody’s talking about, other times it may be something we’d like to bring attention to. Our goal is keep you informed enough to be able to have a conversation about any of these current events. This week:

(Image via: KCBI)

This week, e-commerce giant Amazon, holding company of Warren Buffet Berkshire Hathaway, and the largest bank in the U.S. JPMorgan Chase, announced that, together, they will be forming a company to revamp healthcare. Few details have been made public, although we do know that whatever they end up doing will first be tested on their respective employees.

The mere thought of Amazon venturing into the industry is enough to drop the stocks of several healthcare companies. It happened last fall when there were initial hints, and then again this week following the announcement. Amazon is the company that scares Corporate America the most. Amazon is a tech hydra. They are able to compete with Google, Walmart, and Netflix all at the same time. You don’t have to look any farther than just this month.

Amazon Go

For all the talk about Amazon invading physical retail with their Whole Foods acquisition, Amazon’s own take on physical stores may turn out to be more disruptive in the long-term.

The selling point of Amazon Go is that there’s no lines to wait in, because Amazon has completely eliminated person-to-person transactions. If you want something, you take it off the shelf and walk out with it, passing through a turnstile that scanned your phone on the way in, which will then charge you.

At the moment, only one of these stores exist, and after a testing period when it was only accessible to Amazon employees — it’s located near Amazon’s Seattle HQ — the store was made accessible to the public earlier this month. It’s cool, yes, until you realize that it’s made possible by a sea of cameras and sensors watching you and every nook and cranny of the store.

As if that isn’t already unsettling, the two paths Amazon could go from here are: expand the number of Go stores and extend the technology to their Whole Foods stores, or license the technology to allow other retailers to implement it. Both will help see that this technology increasingly becomes the norm. Big Brother is watching you.

Amazon HQ2

(Image via: MHC Business)

In 2017, Amazon announced that it was going to open a second headquarter campus and was accepting proposals from North American municipalities. 238 applied. Some bowed down and kissed the ring. Others went to embarrassing lengths to woo Amazon. In January, Amazon cut the list down to 20. The eliminated grieved.

The decision to make their HQ2 search public is really quite genius. Not only did they get cities to do much of the research and planning for them, they now have an entire treasure trove of incentive-filled offers to use when they finally sit down to negotiate with the city they decide on. Amazon may have even already chosen a city — or at least a shortlist — prior to making the search public. It would make all the sense in the world.

None of these three things — healthcare, brick-and-mortar convenient stores, and building a second HQ — are inherently related, and that’s what makes Amazon scary. In Greek mythology, a hydra is a serpent-like beast whose multiple heads allow it to not only defend itself from all angles, but attack everything that surrounds it simultaneously. That’s Amazon.

This month also saw Amazon CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos overtake Bill Gates as the richest man in not only the world, but also of all-time. At the end of the month, we also learned that Amazon just had their most successful quarter ever, recording $1.9B in revenue over the holiday quarter. Oh, and they’re getting more help from government tax cuts, and will get even more from the city that “wins” the HQ2 sweepstakes. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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Howard Chai

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I strive towards a career that ends up leaving me somewhere between Howard Beck and Howard Beale.

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