Jeff Bezos' October surprise (no, he's not running for president)

Reuters

Hello and welcome back to Trending, Business Insider’s weekly look at the world of tech. I’m Alexei Oreskovic, Business Insider’s West Coast Bureau Chief and Global Tech Editor. If you want to get Trending in your email inbox every Wednesday,just click here.

This week: While Facebook burns, Bezos adapts

AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis/REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

The 4th of July fireworks have (for the most part) quieted down in recent days, but the barrage rattling Facebook is booming as loudly as ever, leaving Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and the rest of Facebook’s top brass scrambling.

But while much attention has focused on the Facebook drama, with advertisers leaving the platform in droves, a number of other important tech stories are developing:


Meanwhile, in Amazonia…

One of the biggest benefactors of the Facebook ad boycott could turn out to be Amazon, whose ad business has none of the controversial issues of Facebook and is not as reliant as Google on advertisers that have been affected by the coronavirus.

Amazon

We’ll find out in a few weeks, when Amazon reports Q2 earnings results. In the meantime, as Eugene Kim reports, Amazon’s Prime business has been quietly making some interesting changes.

COVID-19 testing, a la Prime: Remember that $US300 million in-house COVID-19 testing lab Amazon is setting up for its workers? We now know who’s leading the effort. Cem Sibay, a 15-year company veteran who most recently ran the day-to-day operations of Amazon’s Prime membership program, became vice president of “Project Ultraviolet,” the internal codename for the initiative. Sibay has an impressive track record of success – but no background in healthcare.

Amazon’s October surprise: Amazon’s famous home-made shopping holiday, which has been inconveniently delayed by the pandemic, may finally have a launch date. According to emails viewed by Eugene, Amazon is now planning to hold Prime Day in October.

It’s an interesting time for a sales jamboree, and not just because of the uncertainty around whether COVID-19 will have subsided by October. A lot of US consumers’ attention will be focused on the presidential election taking place on November 3. And the urge to impulse shop may be tempered by the proximity to Black Friday and the winter holiday shopping season.

Tesla vs. Toyota: Who’s got the better merch?

Last week, electric car maker Tesla’s market cap surged past Toyota’s, creating the strange phenomenon in which a small company that produced fewer than 300,000 cars last year was valued above a global juggernaut that produced nearly 11 million vehicles in 2019.

I’ll let the financial analysts argue about which company has better long-term prospects in the car business. But since Tesla also made waves last week with the introduction of red satin “short shorts” that immediately sold out, I wondered how these two companies stacked up in another important business: merchandise.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has a knack for releasing viral merchandise, including the famous flamethrowers that Musk’s Boring Company debuted in 2018. But success in the merch game is not just about the occasional sensation. It’s about keeping fans satisfied in the long run, going the distance.

Let’s start with jackets:

JacketsTesla and Toyota websites

The Tesla Men’s Corp jacket ($US120) has a nice fit whereas Toyota’s Men’s Club Jacket ($US74) stands out for its ’80s retro appeal. With its more affordable price and less corporate style, Toyota takes the lead here.

Next up, “lifestyle” gear:

Tesla bottleTesla and Toyota websites

I’ve never been a fan of cast iron pans, so Toyota’s $US50 camping set, which apparently includes a burlap sack, is at a natural disadvantage to Tesla’s sleek $US30 stainless steel (and BPA-free) water bottle.

Hats, the tie breaker:

Tesla hatTesla and Toyota websites

I’ll confess, this one was a bit of shocker. Tesla’s selection of hats was much more limited than I expected, and many, including the $US25 T Logo hat, looked like they belonged on the dome of an obnoxious person in a golf cart. Toyota, by contrast, fielded a broad selection of hats to suit different tastes and styles, including the pictured Casual Camo Cap ($US18.25).

Verdict: Toyota may have been lapped by Tesla in the market cap race, but in the contest of caps – and other merch – Toyota is still the leader.

Sound bite of the week:


“There’s room for three players. It’s a big enough market for three players to be profitable and do very well.”

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi discussing the company’s $US2.65 billion acquisition of restaurant delivery service Postmates on Monday. The latest consolidation in a cut-throat market leaves three players: Uber, DoorDash and Grubhub/Just Eat Takeaway.

Associated Press

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Recommended Readings:

VCs says that these 24 companies are the top cloud infrastructure startups in a market dominated by Amazon, Microsoft, and Google

Google is closer than ever to having all the pieces for a wearables comeback, from a Pixel Watch to Glass 2.0. Here’s how it could play out.

VCs no longer value a founding team’s background as much as profitability, and that could be yet another blow to waning founder-friendly terms in Silicon Valley

Amazon’s lawsuit against a former exec is shining a spotlight on its use of noncompete agreements – a practice that critics say is unfair and will scare away talent

People will buy nearly 200 million 5G devices this year, analysts expect – a 23% increase from November predictions, despite the coronavirus crisis

Not necessarily in tech:

There are 1,510 people in Jeffrey Epstein’s little black book. Now you can search them all for the first time.

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– Alexei

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