The evolution of Amazon: from books to billions



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Posted on June 18, 2014 at 10:59 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 19 at 12:39 PM

Wednesday's announcement about Amazon's new fire phone marked a milestone for a company that was met with skepticism when it started out selling books online.  That was back in 1994.  Over the last 20 years, the company has changed the way we shop.

A look back through the KING 5 archives shows the evolution of the company.

The first sit down interview KING 5 did with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was in 1998.  Even then, he did not regret his decision to leave his job on Wall Street.

"I knew that when I was 80, I wasn't going to be thinking about what happened with my Wall Street job, but I might really have regretted not having participated in this thing called the internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal," he said during the 1998 interview.

We know now, of course, that his instincts were right.

Still, USA Today Tech Columnist Ed Baig says it was not an easy road to pave.  He says many were skeptical Amazon would ever find success, when the company first started out.

"Let's remember back when people were afraid to use their credit cards online.  I mean, there really was that period," said Baig.  "And so even the idea of buying a book gave some people pause.  Do I really trust this thing called the internet and being able to shop online?  Amazon kind of defined e-commerce as we now know it."

The 1998 interview with Bezos also talks about the 1600 employees Amazon had at that time.  In 2014, the company employs more than 117,000 people.

In 1999, KING 5 reported on Amazon's decision to expand its business from books to virtually everything, available for purchase online.

By 2007, the company had grown into an internet giant, and KING 5 aired the first of many stories about Amazon's move from its location in Beacon Hill to South Lake Union.  Amazon's relocation completely transformed South Lake Union in the years that followed.

"Who doesn't know Amazon," said Baig.  "You probably couldn't have said that in 1998."

So what comes next for the company that's evolved so much over the last two decades?

Baig says the company is late to the smart phone game, but time will tell whether it finds success there too.

"The big question with consumers is did they pull that off, and we'll soon see," he said.  "Blackberry, Nokia, where are they now? So maybe there's hope for Amazon with the phone, that it's not too late.  It's remarkable how things change."

Amazon is proof of that.

"I think they proved the skeptics wrong," said Baig.