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TheStreet Open House

Marissa Mayer's a Badass

Stocks in this article: YHOOAAPLGOOGAMZN

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If you seek the quantitative nuts and bolts from Yahoo!'s (YHOO) Q1 2014 earnings report, TheStreet's technology editor Chris Ciaccia has them right here.

If you want what will go down as the definitive qualitative take, read on ...

Lots of people hate Yahoo! Simple as that. And, among the haters, quite a few hate Yahoo! because they, for some reason, can't stand Marissa Mayer.

For example, you don't even have to read between the lines of a Kara Swisher piece on Yahoo. The hate comes across loud and clear. It's almost as if -- and maybe it is as if -- people such as Swisher want to see Mayer fail. Life's too short to speculate on the motivation for such vitriol. It is, sadly, what it is.

These same people chide Yahoo!'s growth as "tepid." But a focus on metrics such as year-over-year revenue growth shows a wholesale misunderstanding of what Mayer's in the early stages of building.

Something similar happens with Apple (AAPL) analysis. We lament an apparent lack of innovation from Tim Cook, wondering why it took so long to do a large screen iPhone (assuming we get that in this year's Android-killing iPhone 6). But we're not studying the company from the proper perspective. We prescribe the misguided fruits of our impatience and lack of vision on Apple and Yahoo! as opposed to considering what the strategic roadmap might actually be inside the building.

If Marissa Mayer walked into Yahoo! with the goal of immediately increasing search- and ad-related revenue, I would have remained bearish on her prospects. (I was a fan for the first year of her tenure, turned temporarily sour, but have since reassumed bullishness after learning more about Mayer's video strategy).

Mayer's doing exactly what she should be doing -- keeping things stable on the top and bottom lines with a welcome assist from Yahoo!'s ownership stake in still surging and soon-to-be public Alibaba. Alibaba and Yahoo!'s subsequent cash pile gives Mayer the type of wiggle room Apple, Google (GOOG) and Amazon.com (AMZN) enjoy.

Different reasons, but similar dynamics.

Apple doesn't need to rush out the next big thing. Google can experiment in dozens of exciting areas. And Amazon can build out the stickiest ecosystem in retail without concern for profits. Established core businesses at the aforementioned afford them these luxuries. Yahoo! operates from a similar position of strength even if it's not the result of a decade's worth of domination.

For Mayer to come in and obsessively focus on present-day metrics at Yahoo! would set her up for the same failure as her many recent predecessors. She would not be taking full advantage of the gift she was given when she took the job -- time, largely as a result of Alibaba. She has the opportunity to build something that will sustain. Investors should be happy (as they obviously are given how well Yahoo! stock has performed since Mayer took over). They see the long-term potential she's seizing, therefore stagnant growth today means very little.

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