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At $19.99 a pop, the laptop stand combines everything customers love about Amazon: utility, price and convenience. It’s also a total and complete knockoff — of a laptop stand that the San Francisco-based company Rain Design began selling nearly a decade before Amazon decided to make its own.
Amazon’s innovation with its own version was to replace Rain Design’s raindrop logo with its own smiley arrow logo — and cut the price in half.
“All Amazon had to do was pick the best one and copy it,” said Rachel Greer, a former product manager for Amazon who runs a consulting firm for Amazon vendors.
Rain Design isn’t the first company to fall victim to the aggressive techniques Amazon uses to achieve market dominance. Although its retail site is the most visible of its business strands, the $740bn company has quietly stretched its tentacles into an astonishing range of unrelated industries. Google and Facebook might have cornered the online advertising market, but Amazon’s business successes now include groceries, TV, robotics, cloud services and consumer electronics.
“If you try to measure power by how many executives are up at night because of X company, I think Amazon would win,” said Lina Khan, legal fellow with the Open Markets Program at the thinktank New America.
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