Apple and Amazon: The Two Best Companies on the Planet

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Despite evidence to the contrary (see, e.g., this WSJ report), Amazon.com ( AMZN) bears keep spreading the fairy tale that the company will lose its competitive advantage as it begins collecting sales tax in more states.

That mindset is almost as misguided as Samsung's. The company kicked off an ad campaign where it puts its Galaxy S III smartphone side-by-side with Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone. The Galaxy's list of features dwarfs iPhone's. For the sake of argument, forget the fact that Samsung ignored several Apple features.

At his blog, the always-sharp Ken Segall put it best:
The ad assumes that comparing technical specs is the best way to choose a phone. If the Galaxy's list is longer, surely it must be superior. This comparison completely bypasses the notion that the user experience plays any role in customer satisfaction.

"The user experience."

That's why Apple does not have to release a revolutionary device every time it comes to market with a new iPhone. Everything Apple does -- from design to new or upgraded features -- maintains or enhances a user experience that no other hardware maker comes close to.

You can extend this thinking to Amazon's e-commerce platform.

When it dawned on my wife and I that we would have to pay sales tax on Amazon.com starting this past weekend, neither of us flinched. And, as sales taxes go, we come in on the high end -- 9.75% I believe. Sales tax collection doesn't level the playing field at all; no other retailer, on or offline, provides a platform as perfect as Amazon's.

The best review database and recommendation engine in the business, alongside Amazon Prime, Amazon Instant Video, Subscribe & Save, the Kindle Lending Library . . . no one feature steals the show. It's the combination of these things that ties together the ecosystem. The way Amazon facilitates navigation of that ecosystem creates the overall user experience that hooks you.

The user experience makes both Apple and Amazon great.

Neither touts the longest or most extravagant list of features. They don't get involved in every area that's hot or even beyond lukewarm.

Just compare and contrast the thinking at Apple, more so under Steve Jobs, and Amazon with Jeff Bezos to the pathetic state of affairs at Meg Whitman's Hewlett Packard ( HPQ).

Where Whitman says, "Gee, we really need to be involved in this smartphone thing again," Apple and Amazon say, "OK, if we end up in a space we're there for a reason that serves self-interested purposes, not as a response to a trend somebody else sets."

That's what scares me about some of the decisions Tim Cook has made in Jobs' absence, particularly the forthcoming mini iPad, assuming Apple releases one.

Up until the unveiling of new Kindle Fire tablets, Amazon hadn't done much in the way of hardware innovation. While it certainly upped the ante, all of its devices combined likely will not top a few weeks' worth of iPad sales.

But, Amazon is not there to command marketshare. It wants mindshare. It wants to sell devices to just enough people who will use them to spend money via more than one of Amazon's platforms, programs and services.

Going forward, there's no reason why Apple and Amazon cannot coexist. Both companies have carved out massive niches for themselves, based on superior user experiences.

If either company falls from greatness, it will not be the fault of the other or an otherwise inferior competitor. Rather, you can likely blame any unraveling at Apple on Apple or a loss of momentum at Amazon on Amazon.

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this article.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Rocco Pendola is a private investor with nearly 20 years experience in various forms of media, ranging from radio to print. His work has appeared in academic journals as well as dozens of online and offline publications. He uses his broad experience to help inform his coverage of the stock market, primarily in the technology, Internet and new media spaces. He has taken a long-term approach to investing, focusing on dividend-paying stocks, since he opened his first account as a teenager. Pendola, 37, is based in Santa Monica, Calif., where he lives with his wife and child.

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