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Opening Keynote and Keynote Interview with Jeff Bezos

09/27/2006 8:30 AM Kresge
Dr. Susan Hockfield, President, MIT; Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO,; Jason Pontin, Editor in Chief and Publisher, Technology Review

Description: One of the web's master entrepreneurs has devised a novel way to expand his domain. Jeff Bezos explains how Amazon, already home to 59 million active customers worldwide, hopes to beguile increasing numbers of developers to use web services that the company evolved for its own operations. Bezos' plan involves renting out the -guts of Amazon" -- the servers and software code and networking behind the online shopping giant. He describes a trio of services. The first, Mechanical Turk, named for a 19th century chess automaton (actually run by a human) -makes it possible to encode human intelligence inside a software application," Bezos informs us. At Amazon, Mechanical Turk employs simple software to allow individuals to -vote" on product detail pages to help eliminate duplicate images and products. Work traditionally done by an in-house unit can be performed by a distributed group of Internet users, at their own convenience and for little cost. Bezos is making this software routine available to outsiders now, for such applications as podcasting transcription. Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3) gives users access to Amazon's massive data storage capacity for an annual subscription fee. For small businesses worried about buying up to the next level of server capacity, S3 provides a welcome alternative, with its multiple data centers and relatively low cost, says Bezos. Businesses can also take advantage of this same digital network, through Elastic Compute Cloud, to run applications. This -allows for elastic scaling up" of computing tasks, says Bezos. Many organizations need to test for bugs as they take applications to larger scales, and would prefer not to commit new resources if they don't have to. They also may require only intermittent machine time. Amazon's computers stand ready to serve, at 10 cents per CPU hour, and 20 cents per gigabyte of data transferred, says Bezos. People are excited, says Bezos, -because they see a hint of what the future may be." The reality of taking an idea to a successful product involves lots of obstacles -- what Bezos describes as -undifferentiated, heavy-lifting infrastructure." This -muck" has to be of the highest quality, and often costs an arm and a leg. Amazon's web-scale computing enables users -to get rid of as much of the muck as possible," says Bezos.

About the Speaker(s): In 1994, Jeffrey Bezos founded, Inc., now the leading online retailer, with 59 million active customer accounts and 10 billion dollars in 2006 sales.

Bezos graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Princeton University in 1986. After college, Bezos joined FITEL, a high-tech start-up company in New York building a network to conduct international trade. Two years later, Bezos began working for Bankers Trust Company in New York, where he led the development of their computer systems and became the company's youngest vice president in 1990. From 1990 to 1994, Bezos worked for D.E. Shaw & Co where he helped build one of the most technically sophisticated quantitative hedge funds on Wall Street.

Host(s): Office of the Provost, Technology Review

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

Category: Events | Updated almost 3 years ago

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