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eBay CEO: Amazon Drones Are Fantasy 189

Posted by samzenpus
from the pie-in-the-sky dept.
angry tapir writes "In the race to deliver online shopping purchases faster, drones don't impress eBay's CEO. 'We're not focusing on long-term fantasies, we're focusing on things we can do today,' John Donahue said in an interview. He was reacting to an interview Jeff Bezos, CEO of e-commerce rival Amazon, gave last weekend in which he said Amazon is investigating the use of drones for package delivery."
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eBay CEO: Amazon Drones Are Fantasy

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  • Sounds familiar (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @08:55AM (#45638745)

    'We're not focusing on long-term fantasies, we're focusing on things we can do today,' -former Blockbuster CEO

    • Re:Sounds familiar (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @09:01AM (#45638795)

      -former Nokia CEO
      -former Blackberry CEO
      -former Bell CEO
      -former (insert dead company name here) CEO

    • by spacepimp (664856)

      "Long term fantasies" is one term, the ten year and the five year plan is another for the same thing. Essentially ebay is so hamstrung together they haven't the slightest understanding of what drives someone to use a service. This is similar to when the Google founders went to Yahoo! and they were told it wasn't in Yahoos!'s interest to get people to their destination more quickly or at all.

    • Which appears to be arming Skynet to the teeth. ;-)

      And while I for one hail our new robotic overlords, I do question whether the use of drones is really going to help things here. May I ask, WTF happened to actually making Androids / Gynoids as per the original thinking? When did that dream go out of style? If you are going to create a new 'race' of beings...are you not going to attempt to create something equal or better to your own? Ultimately, anyway. Having a swarm intelligence AI is...well, primitive c

      • May I ask, WTF happened to actually making Androids / Gynoids as per the original thinking? When did that dream go out of style?

        When it was discovered that getting a robot to walk is bloody hard. We've just barely done it with four legs. Two legs is stil way off in the distance.

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      Not only that, but ebay is probably the worst offender when it comes to online shopping. The risks involved with ebay purchases are numerous and range from the "fuck you" you get from paypal to buyers demanding extra money and other ridiculous payment disputes.

      Amazon's return policies are much, much clearer and subject to many less questions. They may have a bigger fee involved but they also don't subject you to terrible support, either.

      Ebay vs craigslist vs amazon = amazon to sell things every time, hands

      • The risks involved with ebay purchases are numerous and range from the "fuck you" you get from paypal to buyers demanding extra money and other ridiculous payment disputes

        It really depends on what you're buying. A 'shrinkwrapped' version of Windows 7 from a seller in Hong Kong? For sure. A replacement brake cable for a Bugaboo baby stroller from a seller in Seattle? Odds are good the transaction will be seamless. eBay is really all about buying the right sort of thing.

    • by daem0n1x (748565)
      Strange how this reminds me so much about another article [slashdot.org] that came out today, I wonder why...
  • I know they both sell things online, but aren't there fundamental differences (people being the suppliers of products versus companies) that put them in slightly different markets?

    • I hadn't really thought about it before, but I just went to Amazon just now and looked at the menu. I found a "sell" option. You can choose to sell things personally (with deliveries potentially being fulfilled by Amazon, so I suppose that means that people can use the Prime service to receive items if you send them into Amazon first), or as a business. It's perhaps still a slightly different market to eBay, but it's definitely competing on some levels. Amazon do a lot more than just sell goods though..

      http [amazon.co.uk]

      • That doesn't change the fact that eBay does not deliver the stuff sold on eBay. It's obvious that eBay wouldn't even need the drones.
        • by tibit (1762298)

          Given that they annihilated, er, acquired PayPal, a payment provider that technically has about as much to do with their core business as shipping does, I really see only two possible explanations:

          1. eBay once again is clueless,

          2. eBay knows full well what's coming and doesn't want to spill the beans early.

    • Re:Rivals? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Monday December 09, 2013 @09:35AM (#45639065)

      They used to be much more differentiated, but they're overlapping more and more. Traditionally eBay's business was regular people selling used stuff, while Amazon's was first-party sales by Amazon. But both of them now do a lot of business in the third category of being basically the storefront for third-party businesses selling stuff. Everything from camera shop like Adorama, to third-party bookstores, now list a ton of items through both eBay and Amazon Marketplace, which is where they compete most directly.

  • eBay innovation? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thatkid_2002 (1529917) on Monday December 09, 2013 @09:02AM (#45638799)
    I don't think I have seen *any* innovation or indication of long-term strategy from eBay. They seem to be basically the same as they were in 2000.
    • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot.keirstead@org> on Monday December 09, 2013 @09:27AM (#45638987) Homepage

      The only innovations eBay has done in the past 2-3 years are innovative ways to charge you more money when you sell things using their service. Amazon is eating their lunch and they know it. I have sold 3x as much random junk from my house on Amazon than on eBay in recent times.

      • I've always had better experiences both buying and selling on Amazon than on eBay. eBay still has its niche for that hard to find whatever that only one person has to offer, out of Taiwan, but it's just a niche - and a declining one as more people turn to Craigslist for many used items they would have previously gotten on eBay because CL is free to sell and localized (read: no shipping charges so much better for heavy items)

        • by tibit (1762298)

          CL is a total joke when it comes to search. That is, probably, why they can run so cheaply - it takes a whole lot more of infrastructure and CS know-how to have well-performing search on such a scale. They are also totally ignorant when it comes to non-local buying. They think it's somehow better to keep it local. That's lunacy in a country the size of U.S. When I was looking for a good deal on a car, sure enough it was three states away, and searching for it was a royal pain because the dumbfuck Craig thin

          • For a great deal of items, local is better because you A) can see what shape it's in before you buy it and B) don't have to pay shipping. That makes it ideal for a great many items that aren't practical to sell online otherwise. It doesn't mean it's perfect for everybody, nor does it mean it's perfect for every item. Cars are one example of items people are willing to expand their search radius beyond CL's means, but even then, a good majority of people prefer to buy cars within a few dozen miles of home -

    • The article indicates one:

      Donahue underlined eBay Now, a service available in Chicago, Dallas and the Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens areas of New York, and the San Francisco Peninsula area. EBay Now offers delivery of goods in an hour, purchased from local stores and personally delivered by an eBay shopper.

    • Nope.... The frustrating thing is, eBay has gotten away with it this long because frankly, they're "best in class" at what they do -- enabling online auction sales.

      I don't know that eBay felt any real need to innovate when they're just the digital equivalent of the traditional auction house, which has remained essentially the same for hundreds of years?

      Unfortunately for the users, eBay (especially with the PayPal merger) has really built an "all your base belong to us" model where they charge you to list a

  • We can thank eBay for the existence of PayPal. Nuff said.

    • After eBay bought PayPal they stopped letting people use other forms of payment like good old fashioned money orders or Google Checkout. Now eBay fees are ridiculous and if you only sell occasionally PayPal holds onto your money for a month or so. I've been a member for a decade and have perfect feedback but they still hold you money hostage.

      Google I am begging you please offer us an alternative to shitty eBay/PayPal.

      • by fred911 (83970)

        If memory serves me correct, I think my x.com account got bought or migrated to a Paypal account.

    • PayPal (originally X.com) was Ellen Musk (currently of Tesla and SpaceX). Before eBay bought them, they put up hundreds of straw auctions on ebay that only accepted PayPal payments.
      • by tibit (1762298)

        Are you nuts? I like neither eBay nor PayPal, but you're delusional if you think PayPal doesn't provide a valuable and reasonably easy-to-use service. You're similarly delusional if you think that there were any alternatives that provide similar feature set - or did at the time they were still separate entities. I've been buying and selling every once in a while on eBay for more than a decade, and at no point there was any serious alternative to PayPal.

        • I deal on the side in vintage & antique furniture I buy from estate sales. Probably 80% of my transitions are straight cash or checks for some of the larger items. I had square for my phone, but then I got the paypal reader for credit card transactions. When I ask customers what they'd prefer if paying by Debit/credit card they'll choose Paypal 70% of the time because they know all about it. Although that is changing as many coffeeshops in the area have started using Square.

          Frankly it's a little bet

    • by spd_rcr (537511)

      Too early to detect sarcasm... Paypal wasn't an Ebay innovation, that's like thanking AOL for for Winamp.
      Really, in what market is Ebay still a rival of Amazon ? Ebay's CEO was probably just trying trolling in the hopes of drumming up any possible publicity.

      • Too early to detect sarcasm... Paypal wasn't an Ebay innovation, that's like thanking AOL for for Winamp.
        Really, in what market is Ebay still a rival of Amazon ?

        Well, because of this article, I'm going to look into the fees charged for selling on Amazon. I have piles of random things (board games, sterling silverware, and camera equipment right now) that I pick up somewhere and resell, but if I could do it will fewer fees on Amazon, I'll look at it.

  • irony (Score:5, Insightful)

    by apcullen (2504324) on Monday December 09, 2013 @09:03AM (#45638809)
    Is it just me or is it ironic that this article directly follows another article titled "Studies show people are biased against creative thinking"?
  • I seriously thought their April Fool's video got leaked five months early.
  • by BigDogCH (760290) on Monday December 09, 2013 @09:21AM (#45638947) Journal
    Isn't it a coincidence that it put Amazon on the news during the busiest shopping season of the year? Mission accomplished.

    I saw my mother shopping on Amazon.com for the first time this weekend. I asked her about it (she always claimed to prefer brick-n-mortar). Her response was, "I was thinking this year I would give Amazon a try." Amazons marketing is working.
    • by Trepidity (597)

      I think it's also marketing aimed at recruitment to some extent. Amazon wants to be a cool tech company, like Google with their self-driving cars and whatnot. There's a danger they will become seen as just a boring logistics company, a profitable high-volume/low-margin business whose main technology is "warehouses". That's a successful business strategy (look at Wal-Mart), but not cool.

    • by Deadstick (535032)

      Spot on. Just for a Gedankenexperiment, ask yourself:

      1. In the week before the "drone delivery" commercial appeared, how many times did the word "Amazon" enter your consciousness?
      2. In the ensuing week, how many times?

      They paid the cost of producing and airing one commercial. Newspapers, the 6 O'clock News, blogs -- no charge.

      Of course, if I thought the system they demonstrated was about to roll out, I'd be investing heavily in pediatric and veterinary hospitals...

  • Your CEO should be a visionary. That's not to say, you should dump all your R & D into stuff you can't make, but if your CEO is bashing visionaries, then you seriously need to fire that idiot.

    • Even if your CEO isn't supposed to be a visionary, and was basically hired to keep the good ship BeanCounter on an even keel, I'm pretty sure that he isn't supposed to make an ass of himself, and make the company sound reactionary and uncreative, in public. That's what I don't understand about the whole thing.

      Even if drones are nonsense as a delivery platform, their PR/advertising utility in the 'we ship your shit crazy fast' narrative that Amazon has been trying to build around 'Prime' would seemingly b
  • I'd say drone delivery is something that is definitely viable and worth persuing - getting urgent medical aid to remote or difficult to reach areas is one example. That siad, I don't personally like the idea of competitors flying probably quite heavy items over densley populated areas.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      That siad, I don't personally like the idea of competitors flying probably quite heavy items over densley populated areas.

      Don't worry. Quadcopters of the size they're trialing so far can't really loft anything heavier than a can of beer. This sort of service will be used to deliver small, light items that you'd otherwise have to drive to the store for because you need them right now, like a tool or a cable. On that basis, they will save money and energy because they'll eliminate a vehicle trip. It costs pretty much anyone at least a couple of bucks to drive to the store. For me, because I live on a twisty road, it takes me twe

  • Translation: Damn! Why didn't I think of this awesome ploy for free publicity during a critical selling season first?

  • just wait until the paypal drone shows up, you put a wad of cash in the basket, and then the ebay drone comes and drops off your package.
    sheesh, i am about ready to toss the internet in the trash because of disappointment over things i bought online turned out to be cheaper than what could be found at the brick & mortar stores, at least when i drive to the brick & mortar store i can look at the actual product, when buying online all you see is a low res photo and a short description that can be mi
    • by tibit (1762298)

      Well, maybe you shouldn't be buying from people who can't sell. My listings always have separately hosted pics with 1280 pixel minimum dimension. I usually don't have any problems selling my stuff, and the buyers know exactly what they are getting.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday December 09, 2013 @09:59AM (#45639297) Journal
    All arguments about whether drones for package delivery are viable or not aside, I am honestly baffled that eBay's CEO would open his mouth on this one...

    Even if it's 100%-aw-hell-no-never-going-to-happen, Amazon's work so far has likely been fairly inexpensive and has certainly stirred up as much attention as a decent sized ad campaign (the sort of thing that might actually cost as much or more to produce and buy airtime to run), so it isn't as though they are wallowing in shame and loss right now.

    Under those circumstances, what possible benefit is there to a not-terribly-clever rubbishing of the opposition that just makes you look unhip and non-innovative? Especially when that is basically true; direct connection of buyers and sellers worldwide, in an easy-to-use, comparatively safe, framework may have been pretty cool when ebay hit the scene, but they hit the scene quite some time ago and have mostly been ratcheting up the transaction costs since then.

    I personally have strong doubts about the viability of drone delivery; but that made me interpret the Amazon stuff as a lighthearted ad piece, done as relatively cheap PR; but probably emerging from a broader 'theorizing about new stuff to sell and new ways to sell it' project that usually operates more quietly, and probably also has more mundane, but practical, notions on the burner. A "Bah, here at Ebay we only do incremental modifications based on short-term considerations, sonny!" response is... tone deaf... to say the least.
    • by tibit (1762298)

      It's not tone deaf, they clearly speak their mouth, and this is in perfect agreement with their customer-facing behavior. They're like AT&T of today, what with Bell labs a mere shadow of their former glory.

      • Didn't Bell labs get spun off in some fashion? I have the vague memory that they are huddled under the Alcatel/Lucent corporate umbrella these days while AT&T finances basic research in contract-obfuscation theory by the nation's top theoretical lawyers...
  • Even if Amazon is just pretending to be relevant in this regard at least they can claim a successful business model. I used to use eBay religiously (even for new goods) until I got Amazon Prime and realized that the subscription fee and price premium for new goods was well worth the lack of hassle with slow shipping, bad listings, and PayPal's godawful dispute resolution. Whenever I think of eBay I think of the Clinton administration.
  • Amazon drones are Christmas marketing ploy

    FTFY.

  • by Jawnn (445279) on Monday December 09, 2013 @10:10AM (#45639425)
    ...that the emperor has no clothes? And that the whole drone thing is just holiday publicity stunt? Not Amazon, surely. /sarcasm
  • are going to throw a party all over this country. once drones are the accepted process, anyone with a radio and a look alike amazombie will be able to deposit malicious packages just about anywhere, fly it into a river, and be out of there before something blows up. I will feel slightly better receiving a package that i know was at least exposed to one other person before me.

    • by keytoe (91531)

      are going to throw a party all over this country. once drones are the accepted process, anyone with a radio and a look alike amazombie will be able to deposit malicious packages just about anywhere, fly it into a river, and be out of there before something blows up. I will feel slightly better receiving a package that i know was at least exposed to one other person before me.

      How is this any different than throwing on some brown shorts and shirt, grabbing a clipboard and doing it yourself?

      Taking something mu

  • ... eBay proposes delivering packages from the nearest hatch accessing their Morlock underground cave network.

  • by Lumpy (12016)

    'We're not focusing on long-term fantasies, we're focusing on profits we can get today,'

    Selling on ebay they get 11% of your sale price after "fees" and then their Paypal double dip fees. and I just received an email as a power seller that the rates will be going up to basically 14% in 2014

    Ebay is doing nothing but riding the money wave. They do not do anything, they have not introduced anything to help sellers or buyers, in fact it's become a turdfest where it is only worth selling on if you have a hard

  • BAAAAWWW! We didn't think of this first! Now we aren't going to get any money from this idea! Let's blast the idea so people don't use it! Whhhaaahhh!!!

    - eBay CEO John Donahue (behind closed doors)

  • If I want to buy something new and consumer-grade such as a DVD, games, etc - I go to Amazon.

    If I want to buy something rare, used or low-cost specialized hardware/electronics sold directly from China such as SPI-driven LCDs - I go to eBay.

    Anyway they're not competing on the same level. Amazon is testing out delivery by drones for the future but eBay is already installing delivery tubes in my neighbourhood. I guess Futurama was right after all!

  • 640k is enough memory... Gates

  • Famous last words for so many big companies............
  • they are skating to where the puck IS?

    Personally, I put my money in an elaborate system of pneumatic tubes. Bring on the tube technology!

  • As you guys point out - Amazon gets a much better *marketing* from claiming they want drones. Doesn't matter if they can do it or not (obviously as of today this is technologically impossible to have this work in a reliable fashion, and probably not in 5 years either).

    And in that, they're right, ie, they're getting fame, customers, money, even thus it's a cheap marketing lie. So since money is all that matters, they're "right".

    However, eBay's right too, drones are currently a fantasy, and focusing on what

  • More often than not I tend to get creeped out when companies become so big they start to see value in tweaking the rest of the world to give themselves advantage on anything from lobbying/regulatory capture, having their way with standards organizations and invading or buying out entire verticals just to control and or add barriers to meaningful competition.

    In the case of Amazon I would much prefer to see the FEDEXs of the world working on flying robots and self driving delivery vehicles. If there is a nee

  • Amazon stock is up almost 50% this year and ebay stock is down 5%. Stock market does not mirror performance, but antidotally I stopped using of both ebay and paypal due to their abusive practices. IMHO, they are a corpse like microsoft that is eating itself.
  • the rest of us!

    "We're not focusing on long-term fantasies, we're focusing on things we can do today," John Donahue said in a televised interview with Bloomberg TV Friday morning.

    Ouch, his tie must be too tight. 20 years ago, Ebay was a "long-term fantasy". Imagine, a VIRTUAL AUCTION house where anyone on the planet can throw money at you!

    Idiot suit.

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