How Will Jeff Bezos’ Move Affect Amazon’s Quantum Ambitions?

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Andy Jassy
What will Andy Jassy’s tenure as Amazon’s CEO mean for quantum?

The announcement that Andy Jassy will replace Jeff Bezos as Amazon’s chief executive officer caught many people by surprise. The move may affect the company’s growing quantum ambitions.

While it’s way too early to say for sure, there are several scenarios of how the move may play out in the quantum arena.

The Same — or More — Quantum Scenario
Jassy founded and ran the retail giant’s Amazon Web Services, or AWS. It’s a service that some estimate about a third of the world’s investments in cloud services is spent with AWS. That’s not bad for a division of Amazon that was basically created as a side gig.

The logic follows that, if Jassy came from AWS and the unit is currently deep in its exploration of quantum to augment its own cloud-based ambitions, then quantum technology remain a focus — or it could rise as an even bigger area of potential development — for the company. We already know that Werner Vogels, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Amazon.com, as recent as late last year, acknowledged that quantum will be a centerpiece of the company’s future technology efforts.

Although AWS may have started as a company side bet, Jassy reiterates that the company sees incredible potential with quantum, telling media, “We are serious about quantum.”

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Amazon’s main quantum product, Amazon Braket, is a fully managed quantum computing service, that is primarily aimed at helping researchers and developers. But, with added attention, Amazon might ramp up Braket even more and the company may bolster other ways of using quantum technology above-and-beyond offering it through the cloud.

The Less Quantum Scenario
At least one scenario exists that might result in a diminished role for quantum in Amazon’s future. This largely rests on how Jassy settles into his new gig. While Bezos was a master at maintaining the focus of a sprawling empire, balancing the growing demand for AWS with its core ecommerce business, the new CEO might need time to adjust to the added duties, causing a retrenchment in the AWS side of things. If Jassy remains focused on AWS future offerings and ecommerce revenue suffers — a break in the pandemic would definitely influence that revenue stream — the investment in quantum — both in terms of time and money — could shrink.

It’s worth noting that there’s no way to tell just how integrated Jassy already is on all sides of Amazon’s business. Because Bezos seems to know exactly what move to make at exactly the right time, it’s pretty unlikely that Jassy will assume the role without proper training and mentorship. And, of course, Bezos will still be executive chairman of Amazon’s board, so it’s unlikely that the Bezos touch will be removed entirely.

The No Quantum Scenario
The most unlikely scenario is that Amazon would abandon its quantum projects. But, because quantum is weird and the world is even weirder, the scenario still exists.

We should see relatively soon just how Amazon will handle quantum in the next few weeks to months, as Jassy assumes his new duties and begins to tout his own Amazonian future.

If you found this article to be informative, you can explore more current quantum news here, exclusives, interviews, and podcasts.

Matt Swayne

With a several-decades long background in journalism and communications, Matt Swayne has worked as a science communicator for an R1 university for more than 12 years, specializing in translating high tech and deep tech for the general audience. He has served as a writer, editor and analyst at The Quantum Insider since its inception. In addition to his service as a science communicator, Matt also develops courses to improve the media and communications skills of scientists and has taught courses. [email protected]

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