Getting Real About HQ2

The much-hyped HQ2 sweepstakes has finally come to a close, but many in the winning cities aren’t feeling so triumphant. Two major metros, New York and DC, will play host to the currently-Seattle-based tech behemoth’s newest nerve centers. Here at the upper end of the Northeast Corridor, Amazon’s announced Queens-based plans have come with a great deal of controversy, with local politicos and opinion makers alike voicing real concerns about effects-economic, social, and more-of this new development.  

As a New Yorker who follows the tech scene closely, I’ve heard a lot about HQ2 that doesn’t quite sit right with me. In the interest of lending a street-level perspective to the proceedings, here are 3 facts about the deal that are getting lost in the clamor.

 

Over 12,000 non-tech jobs will be created

Fears of a new Amazon-bolstered NYC tech elite were fed by the reported 25,000 new jobs that the company expects to create with HQ2. In truth, only half of those jobs (still an admittedly large number) will be in tech-influenced positions where salaries can hit the higher six figures. The other half will be in the same support positions you’d find at any large organization: administrative, custodial, and other jobs that can better draw on the diverse talent pool of Queens and the rest of the city. Don’t forget, too, that the city’s minimum wage will be hitting $15/hour by the end of 2018. It seems likely that working New Yorkers of all ages and levels of experience will have a chance to find new professional fulfillment in HQ2.

 

In a city of 8 million, 25,000 is a drop in the bucket

25,000 open jobs is a big number to see on paper, but in a city as big as New York, 25,000 is a pittance. It’s likely that the vast majority of us who don’t normally pass through LIC will see no changes whatsoever. Even if every single job is taken by someone who currently doesn’t live here, that’s hardly an invasion. The announced number is about the equivalent of the enrollment of the city’s six biggest high schools (there are over 120 in Queens alone). Do we stress every year about new graduates flooding the city? This is New York, not Cedar Rapids. We’ve benefitted from a constant influx of talented and smart people since the 1600s, and HQ2’s changes will amount to just one more round of newcomers.

 

Long Island City will change, but that’s nothing new

Make no mistake, if the majority of Amazon-inspired arrivals choose to take up residence close to their new place of employment, Long Island City will see the brunt of the cultural changes. But for a neighborhood that was little more than a courthouse and a few commercial strips (and one lonely skyscraper) only a couple decades ago, Amazon’s move is the cherry on top of a long process of evolution. Few neighborhoods have exploded in popularity like LIC in the past decade-plus, and this was underway well before Bezos and company set their sights on the locale. A tech campus is perhaps befitting the scores of new bars, restaurants and other hotspots in this part of town.

Any worries about Amazon affecting culture ought to be assuaged by the fact that this city always has and always will be changing, tech companies or no tech companies. It’s the people, not the corporations, that make New York City what it is, and I know I’m not alone in saying that no company is big enough to change the Big Apple itself.

By |2019-05-30T19:12:15+00:00December 12th, 2018|Current Events, Technology|

How Amazon Is Redefining the Way Everyone Does Business

When you mention the name Amazon, one of dozens of different ventures may come to mind. Of course, there’s the website that started it all, with convenient two-day shipping and a seemingly infinite selection of goods. Maybe you think of the high-quality content arising from their Prime Video streaming service, or the Amazon Movie studio that’s released films from acclaimed auteurs like Spike Lee and Jim Jarmusch. There might even be an Amazon Echo in your home, connecting you to Amazon during your every waking hour.

Through retail, entertainment, even food, Amazon is quite clearly becoming a driving force in our everyday lives. It’s no secret that the company wields a great deal of influence over the things we buy and watch. But lesser known is just how much one particular division of the company provides the underlying support for all these products plus many others, in ways that carry serious implications not just for the company’s own business and those it hosts, but international relations and more.

Launched in 2002, Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers subscribers a complete online business platform via access to virtual computers and servers upon which they can conduct their day-to-day dealings. Thanks to an incredibly vast array of servers, a massive number of businesses from startups to industry hegemons currently conduct their operations under the Amazon umbrella.

With revenue of $17.4 billion in 2017, AWS has become a major piece of the supercorporation’s plans. Thanks to a roster of over one million clients, Amazon’s Internet dominance now reaches far beyond their retail origins. Customers of the web services range from Netflix to Unilever to the CIA, an impressively diverse set of users. We’re operating in unmapped territory when web-only businesses operate in the same sphere as colossal retail conglomerates and the world’s most powerful intelligence agency. Of course, if such a map does exist, it’s in the sole possession of Bezos and company.

To be clear, Amazon is not the only web giant offering such services. But similar initiatives from Google, Microsoft, and others don’t have nearly the reach that Amazon does, both online and off. Over a third of the entire world’s cloud computing services are handled by AWS, with no indication of slowing down. This means that, as business is increasingly done over the Internet, all roads must pass through Bezos’ domain.

Additionally, competing cloud computing services don’t have the integration with the mass shipping infrastructure that Amazon has built, nor Bezos’ continual expansion that’s been virtually without precedent. Google may be today’s biggest name in web services, but they don’t have a fleet of airplanes. Amazon does. Microsoft doesn’t have nearly 500 nationwide grocery locations with large footprints in virtually every major American city. Amazon does.

Skeptics have pointed out the potentially grave implications of one company holding this amount of power. A lengthy diatribe in The Nation magazine paints a gloomy picture of a world where all businesses must play by Amazon’s rules in order to function at all. If AWS continues to grow the way it has already through 15 years of existence, there’s no telling what the end result may be and whether new regulations will come into being to reign in the company’s ambitions.

Whether these predictions will come true or not, it’s undeniable that as the Internet is the staging area for more and more of everyday commerce, Amazon is poised to be the dominant force in that sphere and all touched by it for years to come.

By |2019-05-30T19:17:20+00:00March 20th, 2018|Technology|

How Amazon is Redefining How Everyone Does Business

When you mention the name Amazon, one of dozens of different ventures may come to mind. Of course, there’s the website that started it all, with convenient two-day shipping and a seemingly infinite selection of goods. Maybe you think of the high-quality content arising from their Prime Video streaming service, or the Amazon Movie studio that’s released films from acclaimed auteurs like Spike Lee and Jim Jarmusch. There might even be an Amazon Echo in your home, connecting you to Amazon during your every waking hour.

Through retail, entertainment, even food, Amazon is quite clearly becoming a driving force in our everyday lives. It’s no secret that the company wields a great deal of influence over the things we buy and watch. But lesser known is just how much one particular division of the company provides the underlying support for all these products plus many others, in ways that carry serious implications not just for the company’s own business and those it hosts, but international relations and more.

Launched in 2002, Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers subscribers a complete online business platform via access to virtual computers and servers upon which they can conduct their day-to-day dealings. Thanks to an incredibly vast array of servers, a massive number of businesses from startups to industry hegemons currently conduct their operations under the Amazon umbrella.

With revenue of $17.4 billion in 2017, AWS has become a major piece of the supercorporation’s plans. Thanks to a roster of over one million clients, Amazon’s Internet dominance now reaches far beyond their retail origins. Customers of the web services range from Netflix to Unilever to the CIA, an impressively diverse set of users. We’re operating in unmapped territory when web-only businesses operate in the same sphere as colossal retail conglomerates and the world’s most powerful intelligence agency. Of course, if such a map does exist, it’s in the sole possession of Bezos and company.

To be clear, Amazon is not the only web giant offering such services. But similar initiatives from Google, Microsoft, and others don’t have nearly the reach that Amazon does, both online and off. Over a third of the entire world’s cloud computing services are handled by AWS, with no indication of slowing down. This means that, as business is increasingly done over the Internet, all roads must pass through Bezos’ domain.

Additionally, competing cloud computing services don’t have the integration with the mass shipping infrastructure that Amazon has built, nor Bezos’ continual expansion that’s been virtually without precedent. Google may be today’s biggest name in web services, but they don’t have a fleet of airplanes. Amazon does. Microsoft doesn’t have nearly 500 nationwide grocery locations with large footprints in virtually every major American city. Amazon does.

Skeptics have pointed out the potentially grave implications of one company holding this amount of power. A lengthy diatribe in The Nation magazine paints a gloomy picture of a world where all businesses must play by Amazon’s rules in order to function at all. If AWS continues to grow the way it has already through 15 years of existence, there’s no telling what the end result may be and whether new regulations will come into being to reign in the company’s ambitions.

Whether these predictions will come true or not, it’s undeniable that as the Internet is the staging area for more and more of everyday commerce, Amazon is poised to be the dominant force in that sphere and all touched by it for years to come.

By |2019-05-30T19:18:15+00:00February 24th, 2018|Technology|

What Amazon’s Brick-and-Mortar Mission Means For Retail

Virtually, Amazon is as daunting as the river it shares a name with: by total sales and market capitalization, it’s the largest Internet retailer in the world. Having begun its run in 1994 as a modest online bookstore, the tech giant has expanded rapidly to offer consumer electronics, apparel, furniture, cloud infrastructure, and even streaming services with original movies and TV.

Now, Amazon is expanding its raging waters from the online space into brick-and-mortar retail. After opening a bookstore in Seattle in 2015 and two more in San Diego and Portland, Amazon will reach the east coast later this year with a new store in Manhattan, NY. According to the Wall Street Journal, the 4,000 square-foot Midtown location will be located in the Shops at Columbus Circle just south of Central Park.

The company is also considering a location in the new Hudson Yards development, which would be slated to open in 2018. This is alongside other plans for Amazon Books locations in Chicago and Denham, Massachusetts.

It’s an interesting time for retail to be certain, especially since we’ve seen the mass closing of malls, department stores, and small businesses in recent years. What is it about Amazon that will succeed in a physical space, especially in a world where ecommerce is only slated to rise? And does their move into brick-and-mortar bode well for the world of retail, or signify its demise?

As always, we can only speculate about the answer to these questions. But one certainty about Amazon Books is that it has a future-forward approach to shopping. Instead of listing prices, shoppers use their phones to find the best price online and read reviews. This necessitates that shoppers download Amazon’s app, yes—but on the bright side, doing so gets you the best price possible, and unlocks reviews by real readers instead of just literary critics on the back cover.

Shoppers can check out and search the store for inventory virtually, and are even recognized for being Prime members. It’s the best of both worlds when it comes to book shopping: the convenience of tech plus the physical pleasure of rifling through pages (plus occasionally sniffing them for that classic new-book smell).

Amazon Books is also revolutionizing retail by basing their merchandise on online data culled from sales. According to National Real Estate Investor, “Books in the physical stores are stocked based on titles that have garnered the best sales, popularity on Goodreads, high customer ratings and many pre-orders, according to the company’s website.”

All of this is to say, Amazon’s retail is different than retail of the past, and this may just be the key to retail’s future. Luckily for Amazon, they don’t have to compete with ecommerce because they are ecommerce, but if other brick-and-mortar stores want to get in on the action they may need to take a leaf or two out of Amazon Books.

Integrating mobile devices into the physical shopping experience is one way other retail stores can recreate Amazon’s model, whether through apps or beacon technology. Stores might also consider using data to create a more user-friendly (and Internet-friendly) experience for shoppers. For retailers, embracing technology may be the only way to make Amazon’s presence less stifling, and truly run with the flow of innovation’s ever-moving stream.

By |2018-10-31T18:17:39+00:00May 16th, 2017|Culture, Technology, Urban Planning|