NEW YORK (TheStreet) - At some point in a successful company's evolution, its founder appears as a mad genius and its image morphs into that of a rampaging monopolist.
That's the stage of life Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com (AMZN) have reached with the publication of Brad Stone's "The Everything Store," ( available at Amazon, naturally ).
In Stone's account, Bezos get the full Steve Jobs treatment. He never knew his father, he's wildly eccentric and his knowledge gets reduced to aphorisms such as "Life's too short to hang out with people who aren't resourceful," that are meant to explain just about everything.
In fact, Bezos is quite different from Jobs, and Amazon is quite different from Apple. Bezos is methodical and his company is based on networks. Bezos is accessible right down to his e-mail address while Amazon mainly sells other peoples' stuff.
But with the company now worth almost $142 billion despite non-existent margins, and due to blow by last year's $61 billion in sales (it had $53 billion in just the first three quarters and Christmas is the big one) it's as good a time as any to get this over with.
Or is it. Amazon.com is still not quite a giant. In terms of sales it's less than half Apple's (AAPL) size. It's still smaller than Microsoft (MSFT) or Target (TGT) (although it could pass both this year), much smaller than either Costco (COST) or even Kroger (KR) on the top line. Even if it meets its sales goals for this year it will be one-fifth the size of Wal-Mart (WMT).
And this is just a stage, a point defined by journalists, not by the company.
I'm old enough to remember Bill Gates being portrayed as Bill Gatus of Borg , an inhuman force trampling all of computing. I watched Steve Jobs transform from failure to evil genius to legend before my eyes.
It's something the media likes to do, a way to explain the zeitgeist of an era, to take a businessman, along with their creation, into its imagination and use them to explain the times.
It's just Amazon's turn.
All this is coming as Amazon faces major challenges.
- Having made it in tablets, there's speculation about a phone.
- Having come to dominate the public cloud, there's speculation about what happens when hybrid cloud becomes the thing.
- People are asking whether Bezos' purchase of The Washington Post will leave him distracted, or whether he intends to become king of all media.
- Amazon is being feared as a monopolist and criticized for what's on its shelves.