Jeff Blackburn. (Amazon Photo) , an influential Amazon executive and one of the longest-running members of Jeff Bezos’ senior leadership team, will take a one-year sabbatical in 2020, GeekWire has learned. Blackburn joined Amazon in 1998, helping guide the company through its IPO and eventually landing on Bezos’ “S-Team” in 2006. His current title is senior vice president of worldwide business development, overseeing an array of the tech giant’s businesses. “It’s never easy to find a good time for a break when always scaling so fast, but now feels like the right time for me and my family,” Blackburn wrote in an internal email obtained by GeekWire. He’s pictured below with Bezos and actress Michelle Williams at a 2016 ‘Manchester at the Sea‘ party. Here’s a statement from an Amazon spokesperson: “Jeff Blackburn has decided to take a one year sabbatical with his wife and extended family following more than 21 years at Amazon, leading everything from our third party business, to Prime Video, Amazon Studios, Amazon Music, and Amazon Advertising. Jeff’s sabbatical will begin in early 2020, and we look forward to welcoming him back in 2021.” Other members of include AWS CEO Andy Jassy; CEO of Worldwide Consumer Jeff Wilke; and others. Here’s Blackburn’s email to internal staff: Hi, wanted to share with you all that I’m planning to take a year-long sabbatical – to spend more time with my wife and family – starting in early 2020. I’ve been pretty nonstop at Amazon for 21+ years now – from the time we were only selling books. Physical books! I’ve had roles growing our third party selling Marketplace, Retail Hardlines, Operations, Corporate Development, Business Development and Advertising teams and spent the last 7 years helping build Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Studios and Amazon Music – an incredible experience. It’s never easy to find a good time for a break when always scaling so fast, but now feels like the right time for me and my family. In Biz Dev, Advertising and Entertainment, we have such a strong leadership team in place – and tremendous momentum right now. I’m confident this team will continue to deliver amazing content, products, and experiences for customers. I’ve been working closely with JeffB and S-team on this transition and I won’t be going on leave until early next year. So it’s absolutely business as usual for now. I’m looking forward to working with you as we review OP1 plans this fall, and will share with you any organizational changes as we know them. Thanks to my leadership team for their incredible support – and to all of you across our businesses helping to deliver for customers every day. This is an “A+” team of people and am very proud to be part of it.Jeff
Illustration for GeekWire by Guillaume Wiatr. Amazon’s growth in its original hometown of Bellevue, Wash. is getting a major boost. The tech giant is close to purchasing a prime development site in downtown Bellevue that may eventually become a centerpiece of the tech giant’s rapidly growing footprint there. Amazon has not submitted any plans for the site 600 108th Ave. N.E., but a previous plan there called for a pair of towers, including a 41-story high-rise office. A real estate source who is not involved in the transaction told GeekWire that Amazon has put down a deposit for the site, and that the deal could close as soon as this week. GeekWire reported in February that Amazon was the and the Puget Sound Business Journal that a deal will close soon. Amazon declined to comment. In February, GeekWire spoke with a source who worked with several other groups interested in buying the site and saw the potential for an iconic building similar to Salesforce Tower in San Francisco. The site is on top of a future light rail station, and it could serve as a hub connecting Amazon’s offices in both Seattle and Bellevue. A pair of towers could rise out of the development site Amazon is buying. (NBBJ Rendering) Amazon in 2017. In less than two years, the company’s footprint has multiplied to more than 1 million square feet, not counting this new development site. GeekWire reported earlier this month that to Bellevue by 2023, adding thousands of employees to the growing campus. The migration adds weight to the theory that Amazon is shifting its focus to Bellevue and other cities across the country amid ongoing tensions between the tech giant and Seattle. Worldwide operations is one of the most critical teams at Amazon, the arm responsible for getting packages to customers’ doors. It oversees more than around the world and the 250,000 employees who work there. The team also manages Amazon’s thousands of delivery truck trailers and its fleet of 40 airplanes. New logistics initiatives, like Amazon’s “” program, also fall under the worldwide operations purview. Amazon has about 700 employees in Bellevue and more than 45,000 at its Seattle headquarters. It would take some time for Amazon’s Bellevue team to grow to a size that rivals Seattle, but moving the worldwide operations team is a big step in that direction. At the rate Amazon is scooping up real estate, the Bellevue headcount should grow rapidly. Amazon has been linked to several new planned projects, including a pair being developed by Vulcan Real Estate, the development firm founded by the late Paul Allen that built Amazon’s Seattle campus. Bellevue , but CEO Jeff Bezos moved the company’s headquarters to Seattle’s urban core early on. If Amazon continues to expand at this rate in Bellevue, it could mean that after searching across the country, Amazon’s HQ2 was its original home all along.
(Nintendo Photo) Chinese tech giant Tencent has received key regulatory approvals in its home country that pave the way for it to begin selling the Nintendo Switch console there. China is the world’s largest gaming market, but tight regulations make it tough for foreign corporations to enter the market without a local partner. that Nintendo has the domestic partner in Tencent and got the green light to distribute the Nintendo Switch console with a test version of the “New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe” game. Nintendo stock jumped more than 12 percent Friday. The Switch has been a smash hit around the globe, selling since it debuted just over two years ago. Analysts had questioned when Nintendo, which has its North American headquarters in Redmond, Wash., would be able to start selling the Switch in China. Mobile and computer gaming are the primary forms of gaming in China, , because of a 14-year government ban on consoles that was lifted in 2014. Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation haven’t gained a huge following in China, but Nintendo has a chance to make a move because of the portable nature of the Switch and the fact that several of its major franchises — Mario, Pokémon and Zelda — already have a significant following there.
Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, shows off the company’s first branded airplane. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Amazon plans to relocate its entire Seattle-based worldwide operations team to Bellevue, Wash., by 2023, adding thousands of employees to its new campus just across Lake Washington, according to an internal email obtained by GeekWire. Moving a large and critical team away from Amazon’s Seattle headquarters is a significant relocation of employees on its own, but it’s also a weighty symbolic gesture — the clearest sign yet that the tech giant is cooling on its hometown while doubling down on a neighboring city. “I’m excited to share the news that we’re planning to migrate worldwide operations to Bellevue starting this year,” said Dave Clark, the senior vice president in charge of the team, in an email to his employees Wednesday. “This move gives room to grow while maintaining the campus feel that we’ve come to love around South Lake Union.” Sources familiar with the plans said several thousand employees will be moving to Bellevue in the years ahead. Amazon confirmed the authenticity of the email obtained by GeekWire. Worldwide operations is one of the most critical teams at Amazon, the arm responsible for getting packages to customers’ doors. It oversees more than around the world and the 250,000 employees who work there. The team also manages Amazon’s thousands of delivery truck trailers and its fleet of 40 airplanes. New logistics initiatives, like Amazon’s “” program, also fall under the worldwide operations purview. Amazon will start moving employees to Bellevue this month and will finish the migration by 2023. The company currently has 700 employees in Bellevue and more than 45,000 at its Seattle headquarters. It would take some time for Amazon’s Bellevue team to grow to a size that rivals Seattle, but moving the worldwide operations team is a big step in that direction. The migration adds weight to the theory that Amazon is shifting its focus to Bellevue and other cities across the country amid ongoing tensions between the tech giant and its longtime hometown. Amazon Delivery Service Partner business owner Olaoluwa Abimbola, left, with Amazon SVP Dave Clark. (GeekWire Photo) Why would Amazon move one of its most essential teams out of the company’s Seattle headquarters? Amazon hasn’t yet commented publicly, but there are a few possible reasons. The move allows Amazon to continue tapping the Seattle region’s deep talent pool but allows the company to escape some of the friction it is experiencing in its hometown. Bellevue , but CEO Jeff Bezos moved the company’s headquarters to Seattle’s urban core early on. He said the goal was to provide the type of urban environment that young, dynamic tech workers thrive in. But fast-forward to 2019 and the tech industry’s rapid growth has fomented frustration among longtime Seattleites who have whiplash from how quickly the city is changing. Supporters of the head tax rush the City Council chambers during a vote to repeal the controversial legislation. Behind the banner, Councilmember Kshama Sawant calls for order. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg) That animosity came to a head last year, when Seattle officials passed a tax on big businesses, like Amazon, to fund affordable housing, a pressing issue in the region. The business community balked at the tax, leading the city to repeal it less than a month later. The fight over the so-called “” became emblematic of Amazon’s strained relationship with Seattle. It’s a shadow that when the company announced plans to open two 25,000-person offices, concluding its second headquarters competition. Activists in New York pushed back against the plan, referencing Amazon’s battles with Seattle officials over issues like the head tax. Eventually, . The company’s plans to build an office in Northern Virginia and a 5,000-person are still underway. Related: The withdrawal from New York — coupled with news that it had planned to occupy in Seattle — raised questions about where the company will focus its growth going forward. Bellevue began to look a lot like the company’s real “HQ2.” Amazon’s plans to move the worldwide operations team lend credibility to that theory, but Bellevue will not be absorbing the 25,000 jobs the company had planned to bring to New York, sources say. The majority of Amazonians in Bellevue will be existing positions currently held by Seattle employees. Amazon says the 25,000 New York jobs will be dispersed across its offices. Plans to move the operations team to Bellevue have been in the works for a year, according to sources. That pre-dates the HQ2 drama that unfolded in New York. Expedia’s Bellevue headquarters will soon be full of Amazonians. (GeekWire Photo) Amazon still has nearly 10,000 job openings in Seattle proper and sources say that isn’t going to change. One possible motivation for moving the worldwide operations team is a desire to create more space for new hires in Seattle. The worldwide operations team will move into at least three Bellevue buildings: Summit III, a 17-story building , Expedia’s , and the 13-story Summit II building, where Amazon is . Seattle employees may also move into Amazon’s Center 425 tower in Bellevue. The thousands of employees moving to Bellevue comprise the corporate worldwide operations team currently located in Seattle. Worldwide operations employees that are dispersed across the globe will not be relocating. Clark’s team plans to ramp up hiring in Bellevue in the coming weeks, with a focus on software engineers, research scientists, and , sources say, in addition to the employees moving from Seattle to Bellevue. Amazon currently has about 450 listed in the Bellevue area. Update: An Amazon spokesperson issued the following statement about its Bellevue plans: “We opened our first office building in Bellevue in 2017. It’s a city with great amenities, a high-quality of life for our employees, and fantastic talent – and it’s recognized for its business-friendly environment. We look forward to continue growing our presence in Bellevue and bring more jobs to the city.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook and Oprah at today’s event in Cupertino, Calif., this morning. (Via webcast) Apple unveiled a magazine subscription service, a new Apple TV+ streaming service, an Apple Arcade gaming service, and a new Apple Card digital credit card in Cupertino, Calif. The new ad-free has support from in Hollywood, with stars including Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, Jennifer Aniston, Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, and Oprah — who is making and a live book club show for Apple TV+ — appearing on stage at the announcement. It will feature exclusive original shows and debut in more than 100 countries this fall. Pricing was not announced. So the big obvious unknown: What, if anything, will Apple charge for the video service it (briefly) previewed today? — Peter Kafka (@pkafka) "Pricing and availability for the Apple TV+ video subscription service will be announced later this autumn. " So all sorts of unknowns about this…..however much it costs it's not a given that people who already pay for Netflix etc will want another subscription — Rory Cellan-Jones (@ruskin147) Apple TV+ positions the company as a challenger to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which also produce original content and lead the U.S. market for paid video streaming services. But Apple also said it would be integrating its updated Apple TV app with Amazon Prime Video and the Seattle company’s Fire TV streaming hardware. Introducing Apple TV+. A new streaming service with original stories from the most creative minds in TV and film. — Apple TV (@AppleTV) The common thread of Monday’s event is an expansion of Apple’s services business, moving the company further beyond software and hardware, and a focus on privacy as a competitive advantage against Google, Facebook and other companies that rely on advertising revenue to fuel their businesses. Apple’s Services business , to more than $37 billion. The new $9.99/month magazine subscription service, Apple News+, builds on the company’s . Apple News+ will offer access to more than 300 magazines. WSJ internal memo says Apple News+ users will only get a "curated collection of general interest news." To access biz reporting, you'll still have to subscribe to the WSJ. Memo says "our collaboration with Apple will also extend to areas like video, voice, market data and AI." — Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) Apple made a point of differentiating its approach amid broader economic and political threats to journalism, as well as growing privacy concerns. “We believe in the power of journalism and the impact it will have on our lives,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, on stage at the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple HQ in Cupertino, Calif., after unveiling the new service. “We think Apple News+ is going to be great for customers, and great for publishers.” Apple says the service will also include premium digital subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal, TheSkimm and the L.A. Times. “We don’t know what you read, and in addition to that, we don’t allow advertisers to track you,” said Roger Rosner, Apple’s vice president of applications. “What you read about in Apple News will not follow you across the web.” Also announced this morning: A new Apple Card credit card will be integrated into Apple Pay on the iPhone, extending the company’s reach into digital payments. Apple says it won’t track what users spend or share that information with third-parties. Apple is partnering with Goldman Sachs and Mastercard on the Apple Card. Apple unveiled a new gaming subscription service called Apple Arcade, with the ability to play more than 100 games across Apple devices, with offline play available. It’s similar to other services from EA and Microsoft. Apple TV Channels, a new feature in the Apple TV app that integrates content from Apple as well as subscription services including Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. The Apple TV app is also coming to the Mac, and for the first time to smart TVs, with Roku and Amazon Fire TV integration. The event was .
Stadia controller (Google) Google’s new game platform, , promises to eliminate the need to buy a console by making games playable through streaming to any device, be it PC, TV, phone or tablet. But the competitive threat that Stadia poses to Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft will hinge on a key detail that Google is keeping secret, for now. The search giant did not disclose the expected price of the Stadia service and games during . While avoiding the cost of a console could be a big selling point for potential users, the savings could be diminished if they’re required to pay individually for games, plus a monthly subscription fee for the service. An answer to the pricing question likely won’t come until later this year. In the meantime, Google is touting the quality of the Stadia gaming experience, saying it has made the technical advances required to play Triple-A games in high-definition via the cloud, effectively eliminating the need to run them on a local console or computer. Both Stadia and Microsoft’s upcoming streaming service, announced in 2018, make a lot of the same promises, but neither has announced its pricing yet. Another key question is how games will be released. Microsoft has recently convinced some third parties to release their games on Xbox Game Pass, its new game subscription service, at the same time they debut in traditional form, known as a day-and-date release, but it’s not the norm. While Google announced a lot of third-party game support, it’s unclear if that means day-and-date releases, as well. Even though Stadia doesn’t require a console, gamers will need to purchase a controller to take advantage of some of the service’s features. The cost of the controller also wasn’t revealed. Cloud gaming service offered this option back in 2010. In order to use the service, players needed to purchase a special console in addition to paying a subscription fee for its service and an additional fee that varied by game. That was more than many gamers were willing to pay and OnLive went defunct in 2015. The main difference Google is touting about Stadia is that there’s no need to purchase a console. That could end up being a big difference. While Microsoft hasn’t released all of the details surrounding Project xCloud, at the time it seems it will be limited to Xbox games, meaning the console purchase is necessary. Google promises Stadia will be launching this year, giving them the first-to-market advantage, but Microsoft could potentially come out with a lower price for Project xCloud, which is scheduled for beta this year, but doesn’t have a final release date.