Amazon.com's latest quarterly sales were $2.3bn. Wal-Mart yesterday reported $84bn. The difference underscores the internet's ability to grow, much like Terry Semel this week stressed that the market still undervalues the internet as a vehicle for a different kind of inventory: advertsising.
Amazon.com's sales growth was over 24% and has been accelerating for the last four quarters. Few companies are able to show this kind of growth and manage to be declared #1 in Customer Service by the NRF.
All this is indicative of one import thing: the company's superior infrastructure (from technology to distribution and people). As has been commented on a lot - it has such quality and redundancy as to allow Amazon to supply open access.
Are you in need of computing power for your new virtual store (or any other kind of internet start-up)? Hire Amazon. Do you need cheap storage? Hire Amazon. Do you want your virtual store built? Hire Amazon. Do you want to outsource fulfillment? Hire Amazon.
What does all that mean to Amazon? Jeff Bezos has been clear about this - read the BusinessWeek Online. He's talking leverage and tapping a new revenue stream, however small it may yet be. The article also mentioned the blessing of building an ecosystem, an 'army of allies'.
But I see one more possibility, as others have hinted at before: splitting the company along the lines of structural separation in telecoms or utilities. That would make Amazon Web Services the absolute leader in infrastructure and a focussed high-margin play. Amazon Earth's Biggest Selection would be the first virtual virtual store, a clear high-volume business.
That in turn could settle the market's apparent incomprehension of Jeff Bezos' long-term vision.