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Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: Amazon

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December 9, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Reader responses to Amazon drones in Seattle-area skies

Last week, Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos unveiled on “60 Minutes” his company’s future plans to deploy a drone delivery service. (Calm down, numerous media outlets such as CBS News report it won’t happen for a while. Maybe never.)

In this handout provided by Amazon.com, a remote aerial vehicle being called Prime Air that online retailer Amazon hopes to develop to deliver goods to customers takes flight. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos hopes to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using the unmanned vehicles but says it could take years to advance the technology and get FAA approval. (Photo by Amazon via Getty Images)

In this handout provided by Amazon.com, a remote aerial vehicle being called Prime Air that online retailer Amazon hopes to develop to deliver goods to customers takes flight. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos hopes to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using the unmanned vehicles but says it could take years to advance the technology and get FAA approval. (Photo by Amazon via Getty Images)

The announcement drew mass attention and criticism, both good and bad. To get a sense of how Americans feel about the skies possibly filling with unmanned drones someday, The Huffington Post and public opinion site YouGov surveyed 1,000 adults between Dec. 2 and 3. As reported on Friday, the joint poll found “Americans are largely undecided about whether an Amazon drone delivery program is a good idea or a bad one, with 23 percent saying it’s a good idea, 36 percent saying it’s a bad idea, and another 41 percent saying they’re not sure.”

In this Dec. 2 Opinion Northwest blog post, I asked readers to share how they would use the service if the Federal Aviation Administration ever wrote the rules allowing Amazon Prime Air to take off.

People offered some quirky, thoughtful responses:

I would not use it because of the chance that some kid with a pellet gun or slingshot would have a wonderful time shooting one out of the sky, not just for fun but also to also steal what I ordered.

I am also a pilot. From the ground up to 3000 feet, it is uncontrolled airspace. It is every man for himself. I do not want to be low on final approach and have to deal with a drone passing in front of me.

In theory it all sounds great, but it is just not practical. It also would mean fewer available jobs.

— Carl Levi, Auburn

I’d love an online pharmacy that had the ability to deliver my prescriptions 24/7. By the way,  the hysteria against small-aircraft delivery reminds me of the initial reactions to cash machines. A small RFID (radio-frequency identification) on my roof should allow for the 21st century equivalent of the milk delivery box at every house. Very doable.

— John Karp, Bothell

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0 Comments | Topics: Amazon, drones, shopping

December 4, 2013 at 6:03 AM

What your Amazon.com drone delivery receipt will look like

Barry Welch of Ferndown in the United Kingdom created this mock delivery receipt from an Amazon.com drone. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told “60 Minutes” that the company is testing the use of drones for delivering products, according to a Bloomberg story. Follow Welch on Twitter @quantumpirate. We’re always looking to reinvent opinion commentary for a…

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0 Comments | Topics: Amazon, drones

December 3, 2013 at 6:00 AM

How would you use Amazon’s drone delivery service?

Before we get to those much-talked-about drones, it’s worth pausing for a moment to remember the larger theme that emerged from Sunday’s “60 Minutes” profile on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos: Innovation is the key to survival for any company or employee.

You gotta earn your keep in this world. When you invent something new, if customers come to the party, it’s disruptive to the old way.

But enough sage advice from a shrewd entrepreneur.

In this handout provided by Amazon.com, a remote aerial vehicle being called Prime Air that online retailer Amazon hopes to develop to deliver goods to customers takes flight. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos hopes to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using the unmanned vehicles but says it could take years to advance the technology and get FAA approval. (Photo by Amazon via Getty Images)

In this handout provided by Amazon.com, a remote aerial vehicle being called Prime Air that online retailer Amazon hopes to develop to deliver goods to customers takes flight. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos hopes to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using the unmanned vehicles but says it could take years to advance the technology and get FAA approval. (Photo by Amazon via Getty Images)

The Internet is all abuzz over the final three minutes in the segment. Bezos pulled off a sophisticated PR stunt on the eve of Cyber Monday when he unveiled the possibility Amazon will use octocopters (a.k.a. drones) in the future to deliver goods to consumers wherever they may be.

“I know this looks like science fiction, but it’s not,” Bezos told his visibly intrigued interviewer, Charlie Rose.

Here’s video of a prototype from Amazon’s YouTube channel:

Of course, a drone delivery service isn’t even legal and it’s unclear whether the FAA will ever actually approve it. (Read this CNN Money reality-check story.)

Did CBS get worked Sunday night by one of the richest men in the world? Yeah. Kinda.

Steve Jobs would be proud of Bezos’ blatant marketing ploy before a national audience on the most storied newsmagazine show in television history.

But even if there’s no chance Amazon Prime Air will begin any sooner than 2015, Bezos gets some kudos for stirring up our collective imagination (or for some people, horror at the thought of these unmanned drones flying through the air and possibly — gulp — hitting unintended targets).

The AP’s Scott Mayerowitz offered a list of “novel uses” for Amazon Prime Air, including these two cheeky ideas:

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0 Comments | Topics: 60 Minutes, Amazon, cbs news

August 26, 2013 at 2:05 PM

Macklemore, Clint Dempsey and Amazon exemplify Seattle’s creative spirit

Talk about an explosion of Seattle pride. One word comes to mind: zeitgeist.

Just consider what we’ve seen in the last 24 hours:

Mary Lambert, left, Macklemore, center, and Ryan Lewis accept the award for best video with a social message for "Same Love" at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013, at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Mary Lambert, left, Macklemore, center, and Ryan Lewis accept the award for best video with a social message for “Same Love” at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013, at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis rocked the MTV Video Music Awards Sunday night in Brooklyn, N.Y. (Here is a replay of the show.) Seattle’s golden boys won two Moonman trophies for best video with a social message and best hip hop video. Local singer Mary Lambert joined the duo on stage for a stirring performance of “Same Love,” which was released during last year’s Referendum 74 campaign to affirm same-sex marriage in Washington. Macklemore called it his most important song because “it’s a testament to what is happening right now in America, on the forefront of equality. Gay rights are human rights. There is no separation.” Beautifully said.

Here in Seattle, soccer star Clint Dempsey debuted with the Sounders and became the city’s newest hero. (Here is the news side’s story.) Since the kick-off, I’ve watched my Facebook and Twitter feeds blow up with proud fans wondering whether we live in Seattle or Europe. Soccer fans rejoice. The Sounders beat the Portland Timbers, 1-0. It takes a team to win a game, but Dempsey’s presence certainly added some momentum. Now is the time for our city to show America how to appreciate this truly global sport. (Yeah, I’m biased. I play a little recreational soccer on the side.)

Seattle Sounders fans hold up signs that read "Welcome Deuce" during the home debut of Sounders MLS soccer player Clint Dempsey, who's nickname is "Deuce, " during a match against the Portland Timbers, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Seattle Sounders fans hold up signs that read “Welcome Deuce” during the home debut of Sounders MLS soccer player Clint Dempsey, who’s nickname is “Deuce, ” during a match against the Portland Timbers, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Over the weekend, The New York Times highlighted Amazon.com’s role in reshaping downtown Seattle. The rest of the nation is catching on to what we’ve been watching happen right in our backyard. (The Seattle Times is located  next to the Amazon compound in South Lake Union.)

Amazon is both local and global. By encouraging its employees to live within walking distance, it could help Seattle meet its goals for energy efficiency and conservation, city officials said. As part of its development agreement, Amazon also plans to buy a new streetcar for the light rail line that runs past its properties, and pay for a stretch of dedicated bicycle lane.

Indeed, hugely successful companies have an obligation to help their communities gain improved access to transit, innovative public art (I’d place Amazon’s interesting biodome concept in this category) and Tom Douglas-caliber restaurants. We could talk about the trade-offs, but I still tip my hat to Jeff Bezos and company for redefining the modern workplace in an urban city.

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0 Comments | Topics: Amazon, clint dempsey, macklemore

August 5, 2013 at 3:34 PM

Amazon.com owner Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Jeff Bezos introducing Amazon's Kindle Fire in 2011 (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Jeff Bezos introducing Amazon’s Kindle Fire in 2011
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

As a child growing up just outside of Washington, D.C., reading the Washington Post was a time-honored daily tradition. As a young journalist, I aspired to work at the venerable newspaper and did for four years. As a consumer of news,  I’m cautiously optimistic about the newspaper’s sale to Jeff Bezos, owner of e-commerce giant, Amazon.

The paper, owned for generations by the Graham-family, continues family-ownership with the Bezos family. For similar reasons, I’m also cheering the New York Times sale of The Boston Globe to the owner of the Boston Red Sox. That sale returned a good, but struggling paper to local ownership. Under ownership of someone who lives and breathes all things Boston, I’m betting the Globe begins a turnaround of decades of circulation and financial decline.

Back to the Washington Post. Bezos is paying $250 million for the paper, a surprisingly low price for one of the world’s most respected institutions. Hopefully, he’s paying sales tax on this purchase. My tongue is only slightly planted in my cheek. Bezos and Amazon have aggressively sought to avoid collecting sales tax on online purchases. New Jersey in June became just the 10th  state where Amazon collects sales tax.

Among the many questions raised by the sale, is whether Bezos, who has zero experience in journalism, has at least an appreciation for its public service value. How much he values the fourth estate will be one of the things that will guide how much he invests in the expensive business of newsgathering. The Washington Post is a heavyweight in journalism. The paper was enshrined in American political history for breaking the Watergate scandal that brought down a president, and for the Pentagon Papers. But more recently, it has led on disclosures about the National Security Administration’s surveillance program and is still one of the best in terms of local and regional reporting. It is in the public’s interest that the Post continue to excel in public journalism. On Monday, Bezos sent a statement to Post employees that sought to allay any such fears.

 “The values of The Post do not need changing. The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners. We will continue to follow the truth wherever it leads, and we’ll work hard not to make mistakes.”

But Brad Stone, author of The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon—that will be released by Little, Brown in October, sets the stage differently.

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0 Comments | Topics: Amazon, e-commerce, economy