I could make many arguments on this, but Jeff Bezos did a great job in his letter to shareholders, published yesterday.
Interesting aside for those who run companies that work online. If you look through the list of technologies he has implemented, significantly more than half of them, and likely a lot more than half of Amazon’s R&D investment on the innovation side, is in infrastructure, that platforms on which all of the software/Web applications run. In most Web companies, there is a VP R&D (aka VP Technical Products) who handles all of software development, while a VP Operations (aka VP Engineering or VP Technical Services) handles all of infrastructure.
When Jeff Bezos says they are investing in R&D, he means both sides of the room, but especially the infrastructure side. In my opinion, significant technology-derived competitive advantage comes from the nimbleness and cost savings of highly engineered and innovative infrastructure and the innovation and nimbleness in software that such infrastructure enables.