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Innovators And Influencers 2005Innovators And Influencers 2005

Our annual lineup of industry players to watch may be diverse in its makeup, but they all have two things in common: a keen sense of innovation and a knack for success

InformationWeek Staff

December 18, 2004

4 Min Read

Innovators & Influencers 2005

Catherine Smith,
ING's chief operating officer

Jay Chaudhry,
founder of SecureIT

Robert Drost,
a senior researcher at Sun Microsystems

Jay Chaudhry,
founder of SecureIT

Thom Dunning,
director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications

Corey Booth,
leads the IT department of the Securities and Exchange Commission

Brendan Eich,
chief architect at Mozilla Foundation

Jason Maynard,
analyst at Merrill Lynch

Matthew Calkins,
co-founder and CEO of Appian

Al Vermeulen,
chief technology officer at Amazon.com

Stephen Ward,
soon-to-be-named CEO of Lenovo Group

Power To The People
Innovators & InfluencersAl Vermeulen, Amazon.com Inc.'s chief technology officer, works at the intersection of business processes, software interfaces, and human creativity. Vermeulen is responsible for putting the power of the Amazon Web site into the hands of partners by exposing the retailer's internally developed technical capabilities as Web services. "What we try to do is break apart a piece of the business. From a technology point of view, that becomes a service," he said in an interview earlier this year. Now in its third year, Amazon's initiative has attracted 65,000 outside developers, resulting in a buzz of E--commerce activity on "associate" Web sites that flows through to Amazon. Web sites like www.shopforpowertools.com are given access to Amazon features such as item pricing and wish lists, while suppliers whose products are sold on Amazon can use its Web services to manage inventory. Al Vermeulen

Al Vermeulen

Photo by Andy ReynoldsSome enterprising developers have created Web-commerce software using Amazon's Web services that they sell to others in the expanding Amazon network. "We've learned that there was even more value than we thought there was going to be in some of the internal pieces that we have and making them accessible to the outside world," says Vermeulen, a licensed pilot who flies to work. "People have been very creative in the kind of applications they've built on our Web services." When Amazon launched its Web-services program back in July 2002, "it was really kind of an experiment," says Vermeulen, former CTO of Rogue Wave Software and co-author of a book on Java programming. The onetime experiment has evolved into a successful business model that continues to grow. In October, Amazon released the latest version of its Web services, called Amazon E-commerce Services 4.0. The update gives developers an even richer set of capabilities with which to work, including detailed information such as color and size on all Amazon products, access to Amazon's image database, advanced search capability, and a shopping-cart feature. In other words, Amazon's technical staff has found a way to take the company's internal innovations and make them fertile ground for the bright ideas of others. Says Vermeulen, "It's just amazing what they'll build." --John Foley

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