AAPL: is Apple a computer maker, an eletronic (fashion) gadgets maker, or music store? It’s all of the above. I did not realized it’s the No. 3 music retailer in the US until a few weeks ago (behind Wal-mart and Best Buy). The reason is it created the digital music market: iTune.
For graphical designers, Apple is a computer maker; for music lovers, Apple is the new “Sony” because the iPod is the new “Walkman”. For musicians, record and movie companies, iTune is the retail channel. I think that relation is similar to that between Cocacola and McDonald (Coke relies on MCD to sell its coke, Sprite etc.)
GOOG: many people misunderstood it when it went public in Summer 2004, it’s just another technology (search) company, right? Now we all know it’s the world largest advertisement broker (Internet). For many small business owners, it’s the place to put target ads (AdWord); for publishers and bloggers, its adSense let them make money. Of course for web users, it’s arguably the best search engine. For Bill Gates and his troops in Redmond, it’s the biggest threat.
MA (Mastercard): originally I thought it’s a credit card company, it makes money from consumers by interest. That was wrong, Mastercard actually makes money by charging transaction fee on merchants using their services. They have the second largest network in this business. The beauty of the business is once network is there, it’s very scalable. Another good news for them lately is increasingly people are paying by plastic instead of cash, globally. They get a cut from the transactions go through their network. Is that any different from the casino operators that collects money from people go there gamble? I know the casino makes money regardless (who win or lose on the poker table).