Amazon is known for experimenting with big ideas, even if they don’t end up becoming massive hits.
But even for a company known for taking bold bets, these 13 moves stand out.
While some of them are still ongoing experiments, some have evolved into multi-billion dollar businesses.
Check out the 13 times Amazon shocked the world by doing something completely unexpected.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
In 2006, Amazon Web Services started offering cloud computing infrastructure that helped businesses run their own apps and services online. It became an instant hit because it was a relatively new concept, and because its low price allowed engineers to pay for only what they used.
AWS shocked more people when it disclosed its financials for the first time last year. Because of its low price, many assumed it was a low margin business. It turns out it's made $1.9 billion in operating profit on $7.9 billion of revenue in 2015, giving it a healthy 25% margin.
Amazon launched its own line of diapers in 2014 as part of Amazon Elements, which started with premium, environmentally-friendly baby wipes and diapers. But just 2 months in, Amazon discontinued sales of its diapers after receiving lukewarm customer reviews, and said it would work on 'design improvements.'
Not a lot of people expected Amazon to buy the popular live video-game-streaming site Twitch in 2014. Google and Yahoo were first reported to be in talks with the site, before Amazon swooped in and got it for $970 million. Twitch is one of the most popular live video streaming sites in the world, which should help Amazon build out its Amazon Video service.
Amazon opened its first-ever physical bookstore called 'Amazon Books' in November 2015. And it looks like Amazon has bigger retail ambitions. It's been reported that Amazon plans to further expand its retail presence by opening more physical stores that sell not just books, but other items as well.
Once Amazon figured out it couldn't compete with Zappos in the online shoe selling market, it bought the company. Even after the acquisition, Amazon kept Zappos' management and headquarters in place, allowing it to keep some of its quirky culture, including the controversial 'holocracy' system that eliminates traditional manager roles.
In 2007, Amazon released the first Kindle, its own e-book reading device. Although some people thought the device was ugly at first, it went on to become one of Amazon's best-selling hardware devices.
Not all Amazon hardware devices have been a success. The Fire smartphone, released in 2014, was a major flop and Amazon ended up writing off $170 million in related costs the next year. It's also led to some layoffs and turmoil within Lab126, Amazon's in-house lab that came up with the Fire phone device.
In 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed that Amazon is
experimenting with drones that will deliver packages directly to consumers within 30 minutes. Bezos expects the drones to be fully autonomous and in operation within four or five years -- although there are many regulatory and technological challenges ahead.
Amazon Studio, Amazon's in-house production studio, won its first-ever Emmy award last year with its original series called 'Transparent,' underscoring how ambitious the company has become about expanding its Amazon Video service.
There have been multiple reports saying Amazon is building its own in-house logistics network to compete directly with UPS and FedEx. That includes leasing multiple cargo planes, buying a bunch of trailer trucks, and registering Amazon China as an ocean freight forwarder. Some people believe the new service will launch this year, giving Amazon a chance to get into a $400 billion market opportunity.
Amazon ran its first-ever SuperBowl television ad this year that prominently featured Echo, its virtual assistant speaker released in 2015. The Echo can do a lot of things by connecting to other apps or devices, and it's apparently selling like hot cakes, too (Amazon hasn't released official sales figures yet). The fact that Amazon used Echo in its first-ever SuperBowl ad suggests it is getting serious about the product.