Amazon’s Jeff Bezos: Drone tests advance; Sunday delivery coming to “large portions” of U.S. in 2014

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos laid out the company’s recent major accomplishments and offered a few hints on what’s next in his annual letter to shareholders Thursday.*
A few things of note:

  • If you want statistics, as usual, you won’t get real ones — only weird tidbits like “more than one million customers joined Prime in the third week of December alone.” Overall “there are now tens of millions of Prime members worldwide.” Bezos doesn’t mention the recent Prime price hike but says “we have many ideas for how to make Prime even better.”
  • The letter comes a week after Amazon launched its new streaming TV box, Fire TV. Bezos says Prime Instant Video is “experiencing tremendous growth across all metrics – including new customers, repeat usage, and total number of streams. These are output metrics and they suggest we are on a good path, focusing on the right inputs.” Earlier this week Amazon issued a vague press release stating that “video streams on Prime Instant Video nearly tripled year over year. According to a report from Qwilt, which tracks growth in online video usage, Amazon has now passed both Apple and Hulu in streaming video usage.”
  • Amazon started offering Sunday delivery, through a partnership with the U.S. Postal Service, to some cities (including NYC) in 2013 and plans “to roll it out to a large portion of the U.S. population throughout 2014.” In addition, “We’ve created our own fast, last-mile delivery networks in the UK where commercial carriers couldn’t support our peak volumes. In India and China, where delivery infrastructure isn’t yet mature, you can see Amazon bike couriers delivering packages throughout the major cities.” Maybe actually expect drone delivery sometime soon: “The Prime Air team is already flight testing our 5th and 6th generation aerial vehicles, and we are in the design phase on generations 7 and 8.”
  • On ebooks and reading: “We integrated the very impressive Goodreads into Kindle, introduced FreeTime for Kindle, and launched Kindle in India, Mexico, and Australia. Bringing joy to air travelers, the FAA approved the use of electronic devices during takeoff and landing. Our public policy team, with the help of many allies, worked patiently for four years on this, at one point loading a test plane with 150 active Kindles. Yes, it all worked fine!”
  • In fashion: “We opened a new 40,000 square foot photo studio in Brooklyn and now shoot an average of 10,413 photos every day in the studio’s 28 bays.”
  • Bezos says Amazon Web Services launched 280 “significant services and features” in 2013 and notes AWS prices have been cut “more than 40 times in the past 8 years.”

*I don’t know why the SEC site comes up as a “phishing attempt” in Chrome. Hit “Advanced,” then “proceed at your own risk.”