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Jeff Bezos in October 2010. (Photo by Steve Jurvetson, via Flickr.)

Whether or not the Kindle Fire ultimately succeeds as a low-priced alternative to Apple’s iPad, 2011 will be remembered as a year when founder Jeff Bezos tried, once again, to change how we think about a market we thought we knew.

That willingness to make risky bets has earned Bezos a spot on GeekWire’s 2011 Newsmakers of the Year — which we’ll be introducing every weekday throughout the month in preparation for the GeekWire Gala on Dec. 8, where we’re inviting everyone to join us to celebrate the past year.

Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablet, released this week, won’t blow users away with a slick industrial design or a high-performance processor. Instead, it’s a utilitarian device, designed to serve as a portal to videos, books and Amazon’s other online services — where Bezos & Co. are hoping to eventually make up the money they’re losing on the $199 hardware.

Meanwhile, Amazon has been growing like crazy, now topping 50,000 employees worldwide.

Bezos described the company’s mindset in June of this year.

“We are willing to invent. We are willing to think long-term. We start with the customer and work backwards. And, very importantly, we are willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time,” he said. “I believe if you don’t have that set of things in your corporate culture, then you can’t do large-scale invention. You can do incremental invention, which is critically important for any company. But it is very difficult — if you are not willing to be misunderstood.”

Newsmakers at the GeekWire Gala

We’ll be recognizing more than 20 Newsmakers of 2011 during the GeekWire Gala, Dec. 8 at the Great Hall at Seattle’s Union Station. We’ll introduce a new Newsmaker every weekday leading up to the big event.

The night is also a celebration of “Geeks who Give Back,” recognized in a special GeekWire 2012 Calendar that will be given to attendees, with a share of sponsorship proceeds going to the Child’s Play charity.

Tickets are available here for the event.

Thanks to our sponsors Zillow, Bing, Filter, Facebook and Barokas PR for helping to make this special evening possible.

Contact Rebecca Lovell,, for sponsorship opportunities.

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