retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Longtime MNB readers won't be surprised by this Eye-Opener. It has to do with "Star Trek."

Amazon's voice-activated Echo/Alexa system has, until know, been awakened by the use of one of three words: "Alexa," "Echo," or "Amazon." You choose one of the three in the Alexa app, and from then on, as long as you precede every request with that word, the system responds.

Now, there is a fourth wake-up word.

"Computer."

And "Star Trek" fans are thrilled.

You see, that's how Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the rest of the crew of the Starship Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) would interact with the onboard computer system. Including when Picard would order a cup of tea from the computerized replicators, saying, "Earl Grey, hot."

What's interesting about this - beyond the fact that it has enormous emotional appeal to Trekkers like me - is that it is yet another indication of how much Amazon founder/CEO Jeff Bezos has been influenced by "Star Trek" in its various television and movie iterations. (Remember, Bezos actually had a cameo appearance as an alien in the most recent movie, Star Trek Beyond.)

Bezos also is an enormous supporter of the notion of space exploration, having spent a considerable percentage of his personal fortune on a company that is preparing to boldly go where few have gone before. And when his company invests in drones and other sorts of technological solutions to problems, one can imagine that Bezos is thinking about one of Picard's better lines, that "everything is impossible until it's not."

That's a critical insight into Bezos' character and strategic thinking. He does not see things as impossible, just as problems to be solved and challenges to be met.

Which is one of the Eye-Opening reasons that Amazon keeps growing, and can be so difficult to combat.

By the way, I just said to the Echo on my desk, "Earl Grey, hot." And it responded to me by saying that the "replicators currently are offline."

Not only is Amazon smart and savvy, but the technologists and marketers there have a sense of humor.
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