All successful companies make mistakes. In fact, failure is one route to success. Apple and Amazon seem to have take different routes to success, with the former turning mistakes into riches, while the latter turns mistakes into the basis for continued hubris; the type of arrogance which kills humility.
Apple in the Steve Jobs and Tim Cook era has a few notable public failures. The Cube. Anything to do with cloud services. Other issues include Antennagate, Mapsgate, Bendgate, and the like, but overall, Apple’s hubris in the 21st century has been exceeded by unparalleled financial success. Tim Cook’s Apple also displays a new openness and a touch of humility.
What of Amazon?
The world’s largest online retail store is headed by Jeff Bezos, an executive whose reality distortion field seems to extend only to investors and Wall Street. Bezos launches gadgets Steve Jobs style but without the same charisma. After a decade of poor financial results and mounting losses, Amazon faces more online competitors than ever, still struggles to produce even meager profits, and launches gadgets which fall flat in the marketplace.
How does Bezos respond?
I have made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com […] literally. You might remember Pets.com or Kozmo. None of those things are fun. They also don’t matter. Companies that don’t continue to experiment, companies that don’t embrace failure, eventually get desperate.
One could also argue that those companies which embrace failure all the time also become desperate. How else can you explain Amazon’s poor selling Fire Phone? If ever there was a gimmicky, desperate product, Fire Phone is the poster child, merely one of many Amazon projects which have yet to turn a profit (Amazon refuses to say how many Kindle devices are sold each quarter, how much money the increasingly expensive cloud services lose each year, or when the corner will be turned).
According to Bezos and Amazon executives, Fire Phone wasn’t a failure or a mistake. It was simply a pricing issue. Bezos seems to be saying, ‘Come back in a few years and we’ll see how it’s doing then.’ Uh huh. Right.
Quarter after quarter, year after year, Amazon loses money while Bezos continues to hoodwink Wall Street into believing that gross profits are being plowed back into the company to fund future growth and prosperity, which, year after year, is predicted to be just around the corner. Here’s the problem. Amazon is huge, yes, but many more nimble online retail stores prosper in spite of Amazon’s imposing presence, turning a profit and competing well against the online house of cards that Jeff built.
Bezos hubris seems to know no bounds. The company is going deeper into debt, and Moody’s has downgraded Amazon to just over junk bond status. If the proof is in the taste of the pudding, Amazon is leaving a bad taste with investors this year. The shine is off the Shinola. To win back the confidence of investors, Bezos hubris should be replaced with a touch of humility. Or, match the hubris with financial results that look like Apple Inc.
To quote Dizzy Dean, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.” Apple can do it. Amazon cannot.