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Apple, Amazon, and the weaponization of profit

Apple makes more money than any other company save those with oligopoly control of limited fossil fuel resources, yet they’re perpetually punished by Wall Street and called doomed by financial-not-really-analysts. Amazon has seldom made a dime on paper and yet they’re the darling of Wall Street and can do no wrong with market makers. Yet both are among the most successful companies in recent history. Why the difference? Benedict Evens on Twitter:

Amazon manages net income to zero the way Tim Cook manages inventory to zero

MG Siegler on TechCrunch:

The goal is actually to not make a huge profit too early, and Bezos manages it perfectly. You want to avoid showing your cards too early as you continue to lay the groundwork for an ever-larger business. Occasionally, you’ll have to show those cards and win a hand to prove that you can. But the rest of the time you call and fold, as you await the monster to take the entire pot.

John Gruber on Daring Fireball:

The key to Bezos’s genius, though, is in how he’s set the expectations from Amazon’s investors. They’re seemingly all on board with this strategy, and, in return, this permission to run at break-even has made Amazon impossible for need-to-turn-a-profit businesses to compete with. That’s what makes Amazon “the anti-Apple”, as MG writes. Apple is a formidable competitor because it’s so massively profitable; Amazon is a formidable competitor because it has permission — even encouragement — from its investors to run the operation at break-even.

On the surface it appears to be nothing more nor less than a riff on the old “perception is reality”. Amazon has brilliantly set expectations to the point where they can, so far, operate with impunity when it comes to their stake holders. The potential for profit is so much more compelling than profit alone, that everyone is willing to mortgage today in hopes of tomorrow.

Apple, meanwhile, has failed to – or doesn’t care to – set expectations from stake holders so they’re punished for success, and the money they generate in the present is meaningless to a market whose eyes are always fixed on the future.

In other words, Amazon is giving up profit to offer great prices, Apple is making profit by offering great products. And the financial world appreciates the former far more than the latter.

It’s tough to compete with Apple on product experience, but other companies are doing it. It’s even tougher to compete with Amazon on price, and it doesn’t seem like they’re slowing down. If Apple vs. the DOJ is any indication, breaking Amazon’s hold on prices won’t be easy either.

Source: Twitter, TechCrunch, Daring Fireball