The 10 Biggest Amazon Stories of 2014

All Things Amazon

The juggernaut that is Amazon now offers so many diverse products and services that the business, as a whole, is difficult to quantify, especially from a financial perspective.

In 2014, Amazon continued expanding its reach into new markets by adopting and developing state-of-the-art technologies. In addition to the traditional online retail business, Amazon operates the world's biggest cloud, sells tablets and smartphones and has even gotten into the movie business.

But 2014 was also a year in which investor enthusiasm for the company significantly waned on account of sequential profitless quarters. Patience is running thin with CEO Jeff Bezos' low-margin strategy. Some industry experts still swear by Amazon as a company that will own the future; others say a company that doesn't make money is no company at all.

10. Amazon Studios

Last year, the nascent Amazon Studios production house released five original TV shows. A larger group of pilots were streamed, and viewers, through crowd-sourced feedback, decided on the projects that would get the green light.

Amazon scored a hit with "Alpha House," and a second season of the political comedy was released in October.

It looks like Amazon Studios is here to stay -- Amazon has committed itself to continue producing original film and television content. Amazon Studios has slated several new shows for the coming year, and a whole new crop of pilots will be released for viewers to vote on.

9. Lab126 Investment

The Internet of Things is the next big thing, and Amazon is investing heavily in becoming a leader in interconnected home and office technologies.

In September, it became public that Amazon was pouring another $55 million into its secretive Silicon Valley hardware research facility, known as Lab126, the research division behind development of Amazon's consumer devices like the Kindle, Fire TV and the Fire smartphone.

The money should speed development of smart home technologies, including automated home security systems and appliances.

8. New Cloud Features

At the AWS re:Invent conference in November, Amazon inched closer to offering 500 features on its cloud platform by unveiling several new application development tools.

The company released a commercial-grade database engine, in the works for three years, called Aurora and a fully managed code deployment service called CodeDeploy.

Amazon also shared plans to release next year two more software-lifecycle-management services based on in-house tools, CodePipeline and CodeCommit, both intended to help companies achieve successful application deployments.

Amazon said the new functionality is intended to enable developers and solution providers to build complete solutions for enterprises migrating critical workloads to its industry-leading cloud.

7. Twitch Acquisition

Amazon's acquisition of Twitch Interactive, a live-streaming video game service, is remarkably the largest purchase in the company's history.

What Amazon got this August for $970 million is an online channel that hosts 55 million users monthly who enjoy watching each other play video games. The acquisition adds to Amazon's burgeoning broadcasting empire, positioning the company as a force in the massive global gaming market.

It must have been gratifying to beat Google to the deal.

6. Docker Partnership

The headline revelation out of re:Invent this year was that Amazon jumped on the Docker train by introducing a Linux container management service to its AWS cloud platform. The free offering is called EC2 Container Service. It allows developers to manage and deploy large Docker clusters on Amazon's cloud.

Docker has changed the game as far as managing and deploying distributed applications.

Amazon's play to support Linux containers and the rapidly expanding Docker ecosystem ensures the developer community won't jump ship for other, more Docker-friendly, clouds.

5. Fire Phone Flop

Amazon introduced its entrant into the crowded smartphone market in July with much hoopla, touting the new device's 3-D projection capabilities and easy connection to the Amazon ecosystem. The company even offered unlimited cloud storage for media content to Fire customers.

But Fire was a flop. The costly misfire was the main reason that Amazon later took a $170 million write-down.

Amazon revealed at the close of the third quarter that it was holding $83 million worth of unsold Fire Phones. You can get one for a dollar with an AT&T contract.

4. Partner Program Investments

Amazon Web Services kicked off its 2014 AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas with a keynote to the company's partners.

Terry Wise (pictured), who heads the Amazon Partner Network (APN), pledged that 2015 will bring twice the spending on its partner ecosystem, including ramped-up business support and a number of new technological training opportunities.

APN members also heard that Amazon plans on expanding partner programs in 2015 with new certifications, specialized competencies and global growth.

3. Gartner Magic Quadrant Documents AWS Dominance

CEO Jeff Bezos once said he could see Amazon Web Services ultimately becoming the company's biggest business. Gartner's latest IaaS Magic Quadrant report, released in May, gives credence to that statement.

AWS is bigger than its next four competitors combined, and far-and-away the dominant player in the industry, Gartner noted.

One strength listed in the report is an extensive network of partners that can assist enterprises in adopting the platform. While Microsoft's cloud services are growing rapidly, they still have a long way to go to even challenge AWS.

2. Enterprise Solution Providers Jumping Aboard AWS

The Amazon Web Services partner network (APN) grew by 75 percent in 2014.

One reason so many solution providers, including many already allied with other clouds, boarded the AWS train was that they saw Amazon partners like 2nd Watch and Datapipe, both named in Gartner's IaaS Magic Quadrant, undergoing incredible growth.

Other solution providers just find Amazon too hard to ignore. The thinking among some is that AWS has become so large and so diverse that they have no choice but to find a way to work with it.

1. Sinking Stock

Amazon's market share is phenomenal; its pace of innovation is unprecedented. And yet the company seems to lose money every quarter.

Amazon execs have long justified the company's failure to reap profits as a result of being focused on investments. But, ultimately, it all comes down to the bottom line, and Amazon's has not been commensurate with a company of its stature in the market. This year, the stock price finally started to reflect this. After the company's third-quarter earnings call in October, share prices fell 13 percent in after-hours trading.

Amazon's market capitalization has dropped nearly 25 percent in 2014, and some analysts are predicting an even greater decline. They argue that Amazon is a house of cards, built on the shaky foundation of a low-margin retail business.