Hi, this is Dina Bass in Seattle. We got a preview this week of the leadership style of one of Amazon’s top executives. But first…
Today’s top tech news: 
Amazon Web Services—the most profitable segment of the world’s fifth-most valuable company—held its annual cloud conference this week. But the event was quieter than it has been in the past. 
The conference was the first major event under new Amazon Web Services Chief Executive Officer Adam Selipsky. His keynote address Tuesday had none of the live band intros of his predecessor, now Amazon.com Inc. CEO Andy Jassy. Thanks to Covid, in-person attendance at the annual re:Invent show in Las Vegas was limited. And announcements like collaborations with Nasdaq Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. represented significant advances, but not splashy ones.
This is a departure from previous years, when re:Invent’s main keynote would feature dozens of product and feature updates. This one had more like a dozen and a half. No large rivals were targeted with snark (a la featured sudden appearances by Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison’s disembodied head). No smaller ones were suddenly put on notice that AWS planned to take them out. And no one drove a semi-truck into the auditorium at the Venetian.
Still, the conference was a major moment for a division that generated $16 billion in revenue last quarter, as well as a tidy encapsulation of Selipsky’s MO. Both he and Jassy are products of the early days of Amazon Web Services. Selipsky was Jassy’s senior marketing, product and customer service executive and they sat 10 feet apart for years. Jassy dealt Selipsky a really nice hand: AWS is still the market leader in cloud infrastructure with twice as much market share as the nearest rival, Microsoft Azure, according to Gartner.
To keep growing and put his own stamp on the franchise, Selipsky doesn’t need to advertise AWS—everyone already knows what it is. Instead, he plans to focus more on solving thorny and industry-specific problems for clients in areas like financial services and health care.
As Selipsky told Bloomberg Television’s Emily Chang last month, cloud customers are demanding newer and more specialized products, including sector-specific offerings, “which we’re starting to do now for industries like financial services and telco and health care and automotive.” He said he expects, “really exciting things for all of those industries and more.”
That move is part of a larger trend. AWS rivals Azure and Google Cloud have already spent the past several years talking about this kind of strategy and rolling out specific industry programs. Selipsky plans to build on his division’s strength with technically complex cloud services to create highly tailored offerings, said AWS Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Matt Garman. The Nasdaq deal, which will create a private cloud to run major exchanges starting next year, is a good example.
Of course, hyper-tailored cloud solutions aren’t the stuff of wild Vegas nights. Jassy in recent years would deploy live music to introduce different segments of his keynotes. Selipsky replaced that organizing rubric with a series of brief profiles, called Pathfinders. That meant less Foo Fighters and more historical facts about Florence Nightingale and Tuskeegee Airmen hero Roscoe Brown Jr. The change also let Selipsky inject a focus on diversity, which Garman said is a key priority of his regime.
Finally, Selipsky’s address was short compared to Jassy’s, which often came in just under three hours. Garman put it simply: “By far the biggest difference is I didn't have to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle.” —Dina Bass
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