Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos announced Amazon Prime Air– 30-minute shipping. I can’t even get pizza delivered that fast anymore, yet Amazon plans to deliver certain packages in 30-minutes. Sounds intriguing, no? I just see all kinds of problems.
My technology geek fiancé has a couple of drones– small, lightweight helicopters which can be controlled from his iPhone. One even has a video camera onboard which broadcasts live video.
Amazon’s Bezos plans to deliver packages to customers using helicopter drones. Wow. Can that be true? It’s revolutionary.
The promotional video displays an Amazon fulfillment center where a product is dropped into a container which is whisked away by a helicopter drone.
The Amazon drone flies along the countryside and deposits the package on the doorstep of a home; ostensibly within 30-minutes after being ordered.
Amazon Prime members, ostensibly those living within a few miles of an Amazon fulfillment center, could order online, make a sandwich and drink, and sit on the porch waiting for the helicopter drone to land and deliver the order.
What’s not to like?
Technology isn’t the issue. It’s logistics. And Amazon’s Bezos knows it, which is why he said it might be 2018 or 2019 before the drones begin their deliveries. Drones are big business already, but no one has put them into use delivering things (other than missiles, I guess).
Jeff Bezos may want to be like Apple’s Steve Jobs, but there are some notable differences. With the Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, Jobs’ vision and showmanship were translated into products loved by many hundreds of millions of customers– and brought Apple and stockholders amazing riches along the way.
Jeff Bezos may run the largest online retailer, but Amazon hides the continuing lack of profits by diverting investor attention to how Amazon will rule the future. Someday. You know, way in the future (instead of inventing and ruling the present, which Apple seems to do regularly).
Circus Stunt Or Clever Ploy?
Is delivering products by helicopter drone the next big thing, or is it merely a cleverly timed ploy with future delivery so far in the future we’ll all forget the past by then? Or, is it just a high tech circus stunt?
Actually, it’s a little of both.
Flying, package-delivering drones may look, on the surface, like a huge disruption of UPS, USPS, or FedEx’s delivery businesses, but I view it as a pipe dream fraught with nearly unimaginable problems. Let’s imagine just a few.
Logistics. Drones have a limited range, so Amazon Prime Air members who want 30-minute delivery need to live down the street from an Amazon fulfillment center. Can you imagine a fulfillment center where hundreds of drones take off in different directions every hour? Scary. Wizard of Oz flying monkeys scary.
What could go wrong? Oh, I don’t know. How about these? Birds. Wind. Rain. Snow. Cold. Heat. Terrain. Buildings. Power and telephone lines. Dead batteries (in flight). Thieves. Dogs. Cats. Sling shots. And neighbors with pellet guns who want some target practice (not to mention the inevitable pirate attack drones intent upon thwarting the delivery just for the fun of it).
I’m not even thinking hard.
The UPS and FedEx drivers whose trucks roll through our neighborhood in Brooklyn carry many hundreds of packages of all shapes and sizes throughout the day. In a single truck. Can an air force of flying helicopter drones compete with that efficiency just to deliver a product within the hour?
Regardless of whether Amazon Prime Air is a circus stunt or clever marketing ploy, it does one thing very well (even five years ahead of launch). It diverts attention from Amazon’s real problem of actually ruling the online retail world. For all the billions Amazon has stuffed into itself, it still hasn’t squashed online competition. For all the money Amazon has stuffed into tech gadgets to compete against the likes of Apple, Bezos still won’t say how many Kindles have been sold to do (translation: we’re losing money on each product, but we’ll make it up in volume).
Silence is golden. It’s put up or shut up. Amazon would be a gold standard if it could deliver on the promise of ruling the world instead of talking about what it might try to do someday when it rules the world. Someday.