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primenowIt’s only been two weeks since Amazon launched its one-hour delivery service in Seattle, but it’s hard to consider it any sort of test.

The territory Amazon is now serving has been steadily expanding, covering a territory that may reach roughly 900 square miles of the Seattle region. The swath stretches 45 miles down the I-5 corridor and includes some far-flung cities like Everett, Lynnwood, White Center, Renton, Sammamish, Issaquah, Tukwila and SeaTac.

At the time of the launch, which occurred just two weeks ago, it appeared to be a small launch — not even reaching some parts of Seattle proper, including the Seward Park and West Seattle neighborhoods. But now, the area seems too good to be true for a convenience-driven service, which promises two-hour delivery for free (for Amazon Prime members), and even faster, one-hour delivery for $7.99.

Amazon's Prime Now facility near its Seattle headquarters.
Amazon’s Prime Now facility near its Seattle headquarters.

The logistics that the company has to deal with are mind boggling and hint that the e-commerce giant has developed a fine-tuned organization that can deliver on time, no matter what the traffic is like.

Customers who choose to use the Prime Now mobile app are able to pick from thousands of items, including clothes, books, DVDs and everyday staples, such as toilet paper, garbage bags, ice cream, diapers and cat food.

The company’s hometown is also appearing to shape up as a test market for additional services. For instance, it was the first market, where it offers the delivery of booze, including a range of beer, along with whiskey, vodka, rum and other hard liquor. It also announced today it is delivering hot meals from restaurants in the Seattle region, like wild Ginger and Skillet. The service requires a minimum order of $20 for both products and restaurant delivery.

Seattle is one of about a dozen Prime Now cities, following the original launch in Manhattan in December. Locally, it’s operating the business out of two urban fulfillment centers, as previously reported by GeekWire. One warehouse is located near its downtown headquarters in Seattle, and a second is based in Kirkland. A third in north Seattle is also in the works, but is still under development.

What’s remarkable about the company’s plans is that it may potentially have to drive dozens of miles from either of the two locations to places as deep as Everett or Sammamish in under an hour. Given the Seattle area’s propensity for gridlock, that might mean covering a distance of 30 miles in the heart of rush hour.

Amazon has a reputation for building complex systems, but this time, it doesn’t have the benefit of doing it in an environment where there’s no physical constraints, like the cloud. Of course, it’s testing that out in the Seattle area, too.

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