This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
The cliche: When Steve Jobs announced he was stepping down from Apple, reporters couldn't stop comparing him to Thomas Edison. But if Jobs was Edison, just who could step up to become Jobs? David Magee at the International Business Times nominated Amazon's Jeff Bezos, but the idea didn't calcify -- not until yesterday's Amazon press conference, that is, when the tech news world came to a resounding consensus. Brad Stone at Bloomberg Businessweek led it off. Previewing some of the still-TBA details about the new Kindle products with a feature posted before the conference, his article opened with the line, "Jeff Bezos is channeling Steve Jobs." Reacting to the Bezos-led show, Clare O'Connor at Forbes posted just after noon, "Amazon Kingpin Shows His Inner Steve Jobs." Gizmodo's Mat Honan summed up the consensus this morning in a post that is an ode to Bezos bordering on parody and simply titled: "Jeff Bezos Is the New Steve Jobs."
Where it's from: Given their long reigns atop two incredibly well-performing tech companies, comparisons between the two CEOs were inevitable, but notably, before yesterday, they were floated more often as questions or refutations. In 2008, Yahoo's Finance blog titled a post "Jeff Bezos: The New Steve Jobs?" ('There would be no question mark in today's stories.) And in 2009, Tech Broiler mused after the Kindle 2 debut: "Why Amazon should not be Apple, and Jeff Bezos is not Steve Jobs." So then, it looks like the comparison existed before yesterday and even before Jobs's retirement as CEO, but it wasn't the unanimously affirmative comparison it has become today.
Why it's catching on: After noting the similarity, journalists today listed many pieces of evidence for the Bezos = Jobs equation. If it catches on, the Kindle Fire could rival the iPad in the tablet market like no other competing product has. In debuting the Fire as well as some newer, cheaper Kindles, Bezos presented himself well. He was concise, energetic, and had journalists on their toes. And yesterday was just the latest in Bezos's foray into new territory. "Amazon is the rare behemoth that can pivot; so ready to tackle new ventures that it is easy to forget that it was once ostensibly a simple bookseller," writes Gizmodo's Honan.
Why else? Despite all these rational reasons, journalists seemed most taken with one visual cue: Bezos's attire of jeans and a black blazer were enough to have some journalists laughing. As Forbes's O'Connor reports, "Amid applause, one reporter could be heard saying: 'It's not jeans and a black turtleneck!' It was, though, jeans and a black blazer, a variation on the well-known stage uniform of fellow tech mogul Steve Jobs."