GeekWire Podcast: The shared orbits of Microsoft and Amazon, and the tech industry’s future in space

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Plenty of well-known tech leaders have jumped from Microsoft and Amazon over the years. So what does it say about the evolution of the companies that one of Amazon’s most senior executives is now working at Microsoft?

Former Amazon Web Services leader Charlie Bell’s new gig at Microsoft is our first topic on this week’s GeekWire Podcast, now that he has been cleared to start in his role, leading a newly formed Microsoft cybersecurity engineering organization.

Our guest commentator is a different Charlie with experience at both companies.

Charlie Kindel worked for many years as a Microsoft general manager in areas including its server and mobile businesses, before jumping into the world of startups and ending up at Amazon, where he led mobile payments and built the Alexa Smart Home organization. After working as chief product and technology officer at home automation company SnapOne, previously Control4, he’s now an independent advisor and consultant to space and satellite startups.

Charlie Kindel

Bell’s move reflects the evolution of Microsoft’s culture, Kindel says.

“If he had done this 10 years ago, my answer would be completely different, because there’s no way he would be happy, there’s no way he would feel like he could have the ability to impact Microsoft’s culture in a positive way relative to the way Amazon is run,” he says. “But the reality is, Microsoft has changed a lot in that timeframe.”

Kindel shares his perspective on Microsoft’s evolution, and compares the cultures of both companies with his own examples from different points in their histories.

About commercial space exploration, he says it’s imperative for big tech companies to be working on their own space initiatives now to maintain their relevance in the future. He also addresses skepticism about the value of space ventures at a time when there are so many big problems to solve at home.

“The benefits that we are already seeing from investment in space directly correlate to helping Earth, and helping problems on the planet,” he says.

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Stories covered on this week’s show:

With GeekWire’s Todd Bishop and John Cook. Theme music by Daniel L.K. Caldwell. See for more episodes and links to subscribe.

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