Your Net Friends and Enemies

Cramer examines the Net's opposing poles, America Online and Amazon.com, ahead of their earnings reports later today.
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What's a Net buyer to do?

On the one hand, we have

America Online

(AOL)

, which is determined to show a solid quarter and put a good face on profitability. On the other hand, we have

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

, which simply doesn't care about either issue! Both are due to report after the close today.

AOL is your best friend. Pittman and Company wants to prove to the Street that running a business is secondary to running a profitable business. Amazon can be your worst enemy. Bezos and Company seems determined to grow a business with profitability as its enemy. (Although the scoop that

Suzanne Kapner

broke

today about the return kiosks shows me that Bezos is still running ahead of the pack in merchandising effectively, as returns are the big bugaboo of Net shopping.)

Worse still, for the longest time, all you had to worry about with Amazon was what it would do to the book business. Now you have to worry about what it will do the to the music, drug-store and auction businesses! Look out, retail!

Right now, the market, via the

DOT

, is saying that AOL's vision will triumph (helped by an oversold bounce). For us, it's not clear. We are not making any big bets because we think that AOL cannot counteract Amazon's recklessness toward Wall Street. Amazon's apologists will be out tomorrow in full force, telling us that Bezos didn't mean all of those things about how he doesn't care about making money.

But people are getting pretty sick of hearing about the long term, this manager included.

Better to be in the real winners, the guys who make the equipment for both AOL and Amazon, because it will be clear that both companies are spending like mad to grow their reach.

Random musings:

Go now to

John Berry's

Washington

Post

article to see how some in the

Fed

did not mean to issue a green light to the markets by changing bias at the last meeting. A hawkish article, period.

James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund was long America Online. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at

jjcletters@thestreet.com.