Pardon me, but I thought it was no longer fashionable to buy an Internet stock based on distant hopes.

Amazon.com

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is a good company. A fine company. I've bought books there as recently as January, and a toy as recently as April.

But these seem to be awfully perilous times to bet that a retailer will slowly dig its way out of $2 billion in long term debt.

There's nothing I can quite put my finger on, but it looks to me like there are a lot more variables that could hurt Amazon's road-to-profitability story than help it.

First, the economy. It's impossible to forecast confidently how much consumers will be spending online the next year. But if there

was

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going to be a boom in online spending, wouldn't advertisers be racing to advertise online, which clearly they are not doing?

Second, product mix. Isn't it likely that if new revenue categories were going to be big moneymakers for Amazon on the Internet, somebody would already be making a lot of money from them? A recent sell-side report listed a few different areas into which Amazon might diversify: apparel and jewelry, for example. Um, aren't the corridors of the Net already choked with casualties from these areas? Doesn't it strike one that it's harder to sell these items (and keep them sold -- preventing returns, that is) than one-size-fits-all products like books, movies and videos? And even though Amazon seems to have done well with electronics, it stretches the imagination to think that this cutthroat business is a key to growth (excuse me for thinking, too, that launching a PC sales business by the end of this year is exquisitely bad product-cycle timing).

As for the idea that someone will swoop in and buy Amazon, well, it seems that M&A is a buyer's market these days. So if someone felt strongly about Amazon, they'd likely wait until it hits the remainder bin. Although Amazon has built a nice brand for itself, I wouldn't bank on its value; I think brand value -- as companies like

Napster

and

Disney

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will tell you -- isn't as valuable on the Internet as people once thought it was.