Most Innovative Companies 2012 Update: Amazon

This year Amazon was our No. 4 Most Innovative Company. And for the bulk of 2012 the Jeff Bezos-led business did plenty to earn the placement—much of it focused on its increasingly robust line of Kindle tablets, led by the Kindle Fire.

But where the company lands on the list next year depends, in part, on clarity. That's because the early claim that the Fire tablet was No. 2 in the U.S. was questioned and sales were even said to fizzle. Now it's selling a new Fire with more power plus two HD versions, one with a 7-inch screen, one 9 inches, and we still don't know how well these tablets are selling in absolute numbers. All the new devices are aimed directly at the iPad, and Bezos has revealed they're sold at cost. The money comes from selling content to Fire's users instead, and Amazon's definitely improved the content to serve to its tablets through many 2012 deals with video suppliers as diverse as Comedy Central and NBCU.

Amazon's Singles books, meanwhile, are still doing well and are accompanied by a new Serials format. This is important for a company that continues to carve out space in the publishing industry.

At the same time it's expanding its product delivery services with a clever locker system; and there are even rumors it's entering the smartphone race. Amazon's also won European victories in the battle against the Apple-proposed agency pricing model so it can sell e-books at low prices again.

In the last quarter Amazon reported net sales were up 27% on 2011 and yet income fell from a $79 million profit to a $28 million operating loss for the same period in 2012. But as The Verge notes, those losses came partly from big investments in future looking projects such as Web Services and Kiva Systems, which aims to roboticize Amazon's warehouse organization.

If Amazon is able to have as innovative a 2013 as it had this year—while introducing consumer products that prove both entertaining and utilitarian—the company seems poised to remain on our annual MIC list for a long time to come. That noise you hear is the collective groan of the traditional book publishing business.

[Image: Flickr user Knight725]

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