It's hard to be as cool as Elon Musk, but you can't blame Amazon.com's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Jeff Bezos for trying.
Bezos made waves last night after unveiling Amazon Prime Air on 60 Minutes. The drone-based delivery service would've seemed like the perfect April Fool's Day joke had it been introduced exactly four months later, but Bezos is serious. The leading online retailer may be offering drone-delivered merchandise within 30 minutes of ordering as early as 2015.
Regulators can get in the way, of course. The Federal Aviation Administration prohibiting commercial use of unmanned aircraft is a buzzkill to anyone wowed by Amazon's promotional clip.
Naturally, there will be plenty of questions after hearing Bezos discuss Prime Air and catching the video.
- Can this be cost effective?
- How dangerous are these flying drones in the wild if someone should approach it curiously as it was making a delivery?
- Is everyone now going to want to live close enough to an Amazon fulfillment center to make this a feasible option?
However, this is ultimately another way that Bezos has redefined the rules of e-commerce.
There's certainly nothing wrong with Musk. He made electric cars aspirational with Tesla Motors. He has given residential solar panel installations new life with SolarCity's clever 20-year leases. He's done great things in the past with PayPal, and will do great things in the future with SpaceX (this past week's aborted rocket launch notwithstanding).
However, while Musk's bar-raising moments have included building out a network of charging stations to overcome the range anxiety that has kept plug-in adoption in check and offering consumers solar energy financed at prices similar to the electric alternative, his innovations have largely appealed to the affluent.
Bezos, on the other hand, has improved the game for the masses. It's not just the dirt cheap Kindle e-readers that now set a bibliophile back a few hardcover purchases for the gadget. Amazon Prime allows folks to get unlimited two-day shipping for free for less than $80 a year. Now he's working on drone deliveries that may wind up being more affordable and convenient than heading out to a physical store.
Musk may be Tony Stark, but Bezos is Robin Hood. At the end of the day, that's way cooler.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, SolarCity, and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, SolarCity, and Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.