Big Tech’s big week: Historic antitrust hearing and record profits put industry giants in spotlight

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos answers questions via video during this week’s landmark antitrust hearing.

Big Tech spent back-to-back days in the national spotlight this week between a long-anticipated Congressional hearing and second-quarter earnings reports.

The juxtaposed events paint a revealing picture of the risks and opportunities companies like Amazon face as they field accusations that they’ve grown too powerful while raking in record profits from customers who rely on their services more than ever.

We discuss this inflection point for Big Tech, Amazon’s blockbuster profits, plus the NBA’s partnership with Microsoft Teams, on this week’s GeekWire podcast:

The House antitrust subcommittee interviewed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, along with Apple’s Tim Cook, Google’s Sundar Pichai, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg during a wide-ranging virtual hearing on the power of Big Tech.

Lawmakers grilled Bezos on Amazon’s treatment of third-party sellers, how it prioritized “essential items” during the coronavirus crisis, policing counterfeit goods, and more. They didn’t manage to get Bezos to admit anything particularly incriminating, but his inability to confidently deny their claims about Amazon using its might to compete with third parties spoke volumes. And while members of Congress don’t have the ability to enforce existing antitrust law, they can rewrite those laws if they find them inadequate for the digital age.

Meanwhile, customers are relying on Amazon more than ever — and it is showing up on the company’s bottom line. The Seattle tech giant blew past Wall Street expectations for its second quarter, reporting $88.9 billion in revenue and $5.2 billion in profits, despite spending $4 billion on COVID-19 initiatives. Amazon also confirmed it has grown to more than 1 million employees and seasonal workers around the world for the first time during Thursday’s earnings call.

During the hearing, Bezos claimed that Amazon has become a lifeline to customers during the pandemic because of its scale, which also allows the company to hire thousands while others are laying off workers across the country.

But critics want Amazon to invest more of its profits into wages and benefits for employees on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis. Amazon declined to say if it will reinstate its previous hazard pay for its logistics workers or issue additional bonuses.

Listen above or subscribe to GeekWire in any podcast app.

Appearing this week are GeekWire’s Todd Bishop, Monica Nickelsburg and John Cook. Podcast produced by Curt Milton. Theme music by Daniel L.K. Caldwell.

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