There is a problem, however, when the media and investors go down the rabbit hole of futuristic thinking without grounding their analysis in present facts. That problem is particularly acute when dealing with companies like Amazon and Google, which promise so much.
"We encourage investors to focus on the story, not one particular data point," Morgan Stanley analysts said in April when outlining their expectations for Amazon's all-important first quarter earnings. In terms of tangible earnings that investors can bank on, Amazon delivers no profitability, and is judged instead on metrics like its "cash conversion spread," its consolidated segment operating income (CSOI) margins, another non-GAAP metric.
From what I can tell, FedEx generates more profit and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) delivering goods than Amazon does in selling them.
Amazon and Google's respective over $175-billion and $350 billion market caps, however, can almost be justified by the fact that mobile app startups are fetching multimillion dollar valuations without generating a penny of revenue.This leads to my final point. Amazon's Bezos did say profound things about the company's future in his 60 Minutes interview, but these things it had to do little with the media's obsession du jour: Bezos's octocopter delivery drones. "Companies have short lifespans, Charlie, and Amazon will be disrupted one day," Bezos said to Charlie Rose in the 60 Minutes interview. "I don't worry about it because I know it's inevitable. Companies come and go and it's the companies that are the shiniest and most important of any era... you wait a few decades and they are gone," he added. Amazon, like Google and Apple (AAPL), is obviously one of the iridescent American companies of the moment. Much speculation about all three companies surrounds their next step. Will Amazon or Apple transform the set top box? Are rollouts like Google Fiber poised to upend the bundled cable and broadband industries? I spent part of my summer profiling Eastman Kodak's (KODK) and thinking about many of the ideas that Bezos expressed in the final moments of his interview with Charlie Rose.
One of the revelations in my reporting was that Kodak has a trove of research and development that fit growing markets in today's economy. Who knew Kodak's technology could manufacture touchscreens, batteries, circuitry and some types of semi-conductors?