Amazon founder and Chief Executive Jeffrey P. Bezos, the onetime Internet poster boy who quickly became a post-dot-com piñata, is back with yet another new idea. Many people continue to wonder if the world's largest online store will ever fulfill its original promise to revolutionize retailing. But now Bezos is plotting another new direction for his 12-year-old company, which he will lay out on Nov. 8 at San Francisco's Web 2.0 Conference, the annual gathering of the digerati crème. Judging from an advance look he gave BusinessWeek on one recent gray day at Amazon's Seattle headquarters, it's so far from Amazon's retail core that you may well wonder if he has finally slipped off the deep end.

Bezos wants Amazon to run your business, at least the messy technical and logistical parts of it, using those same technologies and operations that power his $10 billion online store. In the process, Bezos aims to transform Amazon into a kind of 21st century digital utility. It's as if Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT ) had decided to turn itself inside out, offering its industry-leading supply chain and logistics systems to any and all outsiders, even rival retailers. Except Amazon is starting to rent out just about everything it uses to run its own business, from rack space in its 10 million square feet of warehouses worldwide to spare computing capacity on its thousands of servers, data storage on its disk drives, and even some of the millions of lines of software code it has written to coordinate all that.

Another big idea from Jeff Bezos? Go ahead and groan. It's fine with him. Even after all these years spent battling back claims that his company would be "Amazon.toast," he's still bounding up and down stairs two at a time to exhort his band of nerds on to the Next Big Thing. And now, more than ever, he's determined to keep going for the big score, even if people think he's crazy. In fact, Bezos, 42, sounds downright eager to confound a new generation of skeptics. "We're very comfortable being misunderstood," he says, letting loose one of his famously thunderous laughs. "We've had lots of practice."

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