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Amazon's global expansion is intensifying

Amazon delivery via Prime Air drone
Source: Amazon Inc.
Amazon delivery via Prime Air drone

If you're beginning to feel like Amazon.com is infiltrating everything you do, you're probably not alone.

The e-commerce giant turned computing behemoth made a series of announcements on Wednesday spanning the globe and pushing deep into the future.

A drone delivery trial in the U.K., video streaming everywhere except China and Alexa-powered rooms at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel are on the way, the Seattle-based company said, all while CEO Jeff Bezos was headed to Trump Tower for a meeting with the president-elect and other technology executives.

Far from just the go-to website for books, electronics and cookware, Amazon is now one of the world's largest and most powerful technology companies, with software, devices and communications systems across the consumer and business landscape.

Prime Air is designed to send packages of up to 5 pounds in 30 minutes or less via unmanned aerial vehicles. The company is testing the drone program from a fulfillment center in Cambridge to two customers nearby, and completed its first delivery on Dec. 7, according to a video on the website. Within several months, dozens of customers near the facility will have access.

"It looks like science fiction, but it's real," Amazon said on its site. "One day, seeing Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road."

Amazon's rapid expansion is not without roadblocks and plenty of skeptics.

Commercial drone delivery at scale will require approval from regulators, namely the Federal Aviation Administration, and there's likely years of safety testing ahead before that can happen.

Amazon also said Wednesday that all 4,748 rooms in the Wynn hotel will be equipped with Alexa-powered Echo devices by mid-2017. Visitors will be able to ask Alexa to turn on room lights, change the temperature, close the drapes and turn on the TV. Personal assistant functions will be added later.

For people concerned about the amount of data Amazon is collecting on consumers, especially in a post-Edward Snowden era of corporate snooping, this could raise some alarms.

"Your next hotel room will be pre-equipped with audio surveillance," tweeted Dan Gillmor, a journalism professor at Arizona State University.


In Hollywood, Amazon has been making its presence felt in the last couple years. The company is gobbling up awards for original shows "Transparent" and "Mozart in the Jungle" and is now out with the hit movie "Manchester by the Sea," starring Casey Affleck.

Starting Wednesday, film and TV buffs in 200 countries can take advantage of Amazon Prime Video, gaining access to an extensive library of movies and shows, including Amazon originals.

China is the only major country not included in the release, which is no surprise given its censorship laws and the inability for U.S. internet companies to crack the market.

Amazon Prime members in Belgium, Canada, France, India, Italy and Spain can access the catalog at no additional cost. In new territories, Prime Video costs about $2.99 for the first six months, half off the regular price.