Jeff Bezos broke about a dozen legs yesterday. His presentation announcing Amazon's new Kindle lineup was entertaining, memorable and most of all, convincing. He sold it. And in doing so, made it pretty clear that he's our next Steve Jobs.
Bezos owned the stage; he was a lion on the savannah. He was stylish and witty and smart, tossing out thought bombs like they were free t-shirts. He poked at his competitors (Hi, Apple!) without coming across as petty. Everything was rehearsed down to the second, ensuring there would be no major snares or snags where things bombed onstage (Hi, Microsoft!). He also got in and out. He made his case and then got the fuck off the stage, knowing better than to drone on and on (Hi, Google!) until everyone was bored out of their shoes.
He also did a good job with secrecy. Yeah, TechCrunch had a nice scoop on the Fire in advance, and sure there were some predictions that there would be a new e-ink device released too, but I don't think anyone was expecting to see an entire family of new Kindles. Or that the high end new tablet would be a mere $200. $200!
And so when it was all over, the press, the great opinionator that drives purchasing decisions, was utterly flabbergasted. It was totally Jobsed, so to speak. Hypnotized and drawn in by the mind-blowing Bezos.
Much of that that is because of his passion. You can see it in his eyes, full of zeal and bordering on crazy. He isn't just conning you, he believes in it. He feels strongly that he's got the right product, at the right time. And so watch him and you will too.
And yet, it's not just about his salesmanship. "Jeff Bezos is the new Ron Popeil" is a whole other story. He mirrors Apple's former CEO in a host of other ways as well.
Most obviously, he's a founder/CEO. Amazon is his. Yes, it's a public company, but it goes where his vision takes it. It follows his mind into markets. Amazon is Jeff Bezos. Without him it would be adrift.
He also knows when to act. Amazon will muscle into all sorts of areas where he realizes he can kick the status quo out of the way. Amazon is the rare behemoth that can pivot; so ready to tackle new ventures that it is easy to forget that it was once ostensibly a simple bookseller. I've long held that that Bezos doesn't get enough credit for reckless ambition. Like Jobs, he's delightfully willing to take risks.
It plunged from retail into full on Web services. Need to store some data? Amazon's S3 will do that for you. Want to host some computing power? Try Amazon EC2. Today so much of the damn web runs on it that when it went down earlier this year it took Netflix, Reddit, Foursquare, and a host of others out with it.
Then there is the Kindle. Bezos didn't wait for the ebook market to explode, he created it. He went out and got it, building it from the bottom up with an entire hardware, software, and content ecosystem. (What's up, iTunes?).
In fact, Amazon was ahead of Apple in terms of building the ecosystem. On the day Apple announced the iPod, it handed out a stack of CDs with the iPods themselves, because it was the only way to hand out devices pre-loaded with music and still meet industry licensing terms. It was nearly a year and a half before the iTunes Store would come online.
You could buy a book for your Kindle on day one.
What's more, his devices are consistently great. They just work. Yeah, that first Kindle was a bit clunky and expensive by today's standards. So was the first iPod.
But, you might say, Steve Jobs didn't just focus on Apple. He had NeXT and Pixar; he revolutionized the computer graphics industry.
Very true. But Jeff Bezos has started a second company as well. He's going to the moon. Just watch.
You can keep up with Mat Honan, the author of this post, on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.