Will Apple's Shot at Google Hit RIM and Nokia Instead?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Apple's (AAPL) no-news Worldwide Developers Conference announcement of leaving Google (GOOG) maps for its own is clearly a blow for Google, but the impact on Google's earnings may not amount to much more than a difference in rounding. iPhones account for much of mobile search with GPS, etc. (about half), and it's an valuable half. The demographics of iPhone users are coveted by advertisers for their income levels.

Along with road, location and travel information provided back to Google's HAL 9000 computer system to figure out what people want, Google is able to better target ads for everyone.

Apple's Steve Jobs wasn't all too pleased with Google's Android entry into the phone space, and we all know what they say about paybacks. Google has two choices and only one makes sense. Google can double down on mobile, mapping, GPS etc., and make sure the user experience is far and above the iPhone native experience. A Herculean task to be sure, which would have most competitor CEOs curling up in the fetal position under their desks. Google, a company where building a better user experience is what they eat for breakfast, has its hands full here.

My Enemy's Enemy is my Friend

It's no surprise that Facebook ( FB) is further integrated into iPhone. Facebook's biggest challenge is monetizing mobile. For Facebook, the ability to make a buck on all the moms uploading little Michael's picture with cake on his face is essential if Facebook has any hope of ever seeing a stock price north of $38 again.

Google currently offers the only real social alternative to Facebook, and to say it's lagging is generous. Based on what I have seen so far, I expect Google to continue to step up its game and Facebook investors to face a lot of quarters waiting for growth to justify the outsized valuation. It doesn't mean it won't happen, though, and like Amazon ( AMZN), developments can take time.

Caught in the Middle

Research In Motion ( RIMM) and Nokia ( NOK) are now caught between the unmovable force and the now-hitting unstoppable force. Without Microsoft ( MSFT), I would have no trouble signing the death certificate for Nokia and consider it no different than Palm II without a savior like Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) to come to the rescue. At $21.50 a share, HP has to try to save itself right now.

How long Microsoft will backstop Nokia is uncertain but given the success of the Lumina 9000, other makers are likely to step up into the now "free" Windows Mobile OS. Giving away "only" for free is cheaper for Microsoft than the current Nokia deal and means capturing a critical mass of users to keep the OS viable. Nokia may end up a victim of its own success if other hardware makers' desiring a platform without all the potential legal landmines Android comes with divest with Windows as an OS option.

RIM has taken so long to release BlackBerry10 that it shouldn't just have a better map than Android or Apple, it should drive my car and take care of the tip at the restaurant. In the time RIM has taken so far both Apple and Android will have released multiple upgrades.

Saving RIM from the trash bin is only the promise of an exceptional user experience with BB10, and in the meantime Google and Apple are fighting it out at a level at which RIM is no longer competing. Simply put, RIM has lost its mojo, and without it expects a product that is "good enough" to release but hardly much more. Of course, the delays could be the result of not allowing "good enough" and BB10 will delight and amaze. Unfortunately, years have gone by since that has happened in Waterloo.

Expect RIM and Nokia (and maybe Microsoft if it doesn't find others to build top-end phones people want to buy) to get squeezed like a fly between two sumo wrestlers at full speed.

At the time of publication the author did not hold a position in any stock mentioned.

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