Friday, June 20, 2014

Amazon Geekery (or, 24 hours in Seattle)

So on Wednesday I got to go to Seattle to the launch of the Amazon smartphone.  It's the first launch ever where they've had customers, and about 120 of us were chosen, about half of whom (myself included) were flown in from out of town.

I have no idea how I was chosen, so don't even bother to ask.  I did talk with one of the "hosts" about how they decided to who invite, since over 60,000 people applied, and he said there were over 40 criteria.  Among them; do you own one of their devices, do you write reviews, do you buy different types of things (yay for having a baby and being too lazy to go shopping, so using Subscribe and Save with Amazon Mom for everything).

For whatever reason, at 8:00pm I got into Seattle, where there was a driver with a town car waiting for me with a poster that said Amazon Event, H. Teysko.  No kidding.  I got to my hotel (pretty swanky) and in my room was a copy of the Mr. Pine's Purple House book that Jeff Bezos had sent to all the press before the event (it's about a man who lives in a row of white houses, and does all this stuff to try to differentiate his house, eventually painting it purple, and then the rest of the neighborhood gets the idea to paint their houses red and green, etc., and suddenly it's all colorful).  There was a note on it saying how they were glad we would be there the following day, and enclosed is Jeff Bezos' favorite childhood book; and he thinks we'll agree that things are better when they're just a little bit different.

At 8:45, I was downstairs in the lobby waiting for our shuttle to the launch event, which was about a 20 minute drive away.  We were dropped off and there was a line of press on one side of the check-in barricade.  I talked to Jo from Fox Business News first.  There were lots of geek press - people from Mashable, Engadget, etc.  I checked in and got a blue wristband, which apparently differentiated me as a super special Amazon customer.

At 10am the doors opened, and we all were ushered in together.  We were in a studio, and the place was all dark.  The walls had screens with pastel blues and reds, like twilight and the early morning sky, and there were little lights which I thought were shooting stars, but now I know were probably meant to be fireflies.  The press was all on risers in the back, with giant cameras and such.  And there was club-like music playing.  I suddenly felt very unhip.  The Spice Girls were blasting.  I thought we were supposed to get up and dance or something.  I wasn't dressed for a club.

The number of people who applied to be in the audience. #lucky
At 10:30 on the dot, Jeff Bezos himself comes out and starts talking about how much people love Amazon Prime, and how great it is, etc.  He goes through a powerpoint presentation slide by slide, and I'm starting to get bored.  I was tweeting everything on my ipad to try to stay awake.  Eventually, like 20 minutes in, talk turns to the phone.

Then we get to see a demo, and he walks us through the technology behind the 3D stuff, and we see firefly, and he talks about the headset, and on and on.  I was seriously falling asleep,  I needed more coffee.  Plus I was hungry.  There was breakfast outside while we were waiting, but I went for the coffee first, and by the time I got to the food table the press had eaten all the fruit.

After the presentation, we were given some lovely snacks to tide us over until lunch - mixed nuts with bacon, which is an interesting combination.  Then we were shuttled over to the Amazon campus, where we were given lunch at a restaurant below it.

I thought it was an interesting mix of people.  There seemed to be a lot of people who were in awe of the phone.  The 3D stuff is pretty nifty, but they were going on and on about Firefly, and I was kind of like, "isn't that just sort of like Google Goggles?" but they didn't want to hear it.  And the song lyric thing - that's just sort of like Shazam, right?  So there were a lot of people who were super impressed with the phone, going on and on and on about how great it was.  I was sort of like, "meh."  I guess I'm too jaded.

And I'm really kind of freaked out about the 4 infared cameras that are on you at all times.  I get that's how they have to do it to get the 3D portion (they need to know where your head is at, and not make you wear weird head gear - a clear cut at Google Glass) but it still freaks me out.

Hanging with Bezos
So at the restaurant we all file into tables where there is an Amazon Host who is there to help us make small talk (we're supposed to talk about things that make us peculiar) and also get us pumped up about the phone.  We are ushered into private rooms where we can play with it.  I peppered them with questions about privacy, and did ask about it being like google goggles, and I wasn't duly impressed enough, I don't think.  I'm particularly unimpressed with the AT&T exclusive.  It's 2014.  We seriously still do exclusives?

But the best part was when Jeff Bezos himself came in.  Whatever I think about their phone, I love Amazon and I love Bezos (I read my first biography of him in like 2000), and I got to meet him and get a picture taken with him.  And I think it's awesome that the founder and CEO of such a huge company would take the time to meet with each of his customers who were there.  He just came up, "hey, I'm Jeff," like we didn't know that already.  My phone decided to not work while trying to take the picture, and I cleverly quipped, "you should use this as an ad for your phone," which made him laugh.

After lunch, we were all given goody bags, and then we were shuttled back to the hotel.  I walked up to the Seattle Public Library where I saw a friend of mine from Lancaster County, who I hadn't seen in 12 years.  Then back to the hotel where my town car picked me up for the flight home.

All in all, it was a pretty awesome 24 hours, and even though I'm not super excited about their phone, I'm totally excited about what they do for customers, and I still love you, Amazon.

1 comment:

Cynthia T said...

Incredible, memorable, 24 hours.
As a fellow Amazon lover, I hope the new phone is a big success. In the meantime, I'm gonna listen to a pre-loaded playlist on Prime and chill.
Thanks, Jeff. You are way cool.