NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With apologies to the Board (thanks for the love, guys!), I must take exception to an article Anton Wahlman wrote, TheStreet published, and, thanks to its placement on the (excellent) Yahoo! (YHOO) homepage, has gone something slightly short of viral.
At least that's what I saw on my personalized Yahoo! homepage, which, by the way, has steadily improved to the point of awesome utility on Marissa Mayer's watch.
I saw The Google Laptop That Beat Apple And Microsoft article. I read it. And the first thing I thought was Hasn't the multi-talented and ultra-prolific Anton Wahlman learned from the ...
I'm just plain tired of these lame comparisons. They're misleading and unfair, particularly because they ignore company-specific circumstances and, in some cases, stated goals.
Let's get something straight ... on smartphones, tablets and laptops, nobody -- nobody -- is beating Apple (AAPL). Not Google (GOOG). Not Acer. Not ASUS. Not Lenovo. And certainly not Hewlett-Packard (HPQ).
The premise that a compete-on-price laptop, marginally good for nothing other than the most basic computing tasks beats Apple (or Microsoft (MSFT) for that matter) is inherently flawed. You can make it sound like an attractive proposition, but it doesn't hold up to even the slightest scrutiny or inclusion of basic context.
First, it's absurd to argue, as Wahlman did, that Google "beats" Apple because it's the "volume king."
For the record, using the Amazon.com (AMZN) leaderboard as evidence is a scientifically bankrupt approach -- or at least terribly difficult to rely on with any confidence whatsoever.
There are these places called Apple Stores. And, while one of them might have a known body odor issue, they're still wonderful places to visit and shop in. So much so that quite a few people would never think of purchasing a Macbook via Amazon. And, if you're not stepping into an Apple Store, there's a good chance you're customizing your machine at Apple's Website. As it turns out, it's probably a testament to Apple that Macbooks show up as top sellers on Amazon at all.
But, that aside, to say Google "beats" Apple because it sells more laptops (suspending disbelief for the sake of argument and assuming it actually does) takes us back to the same old, tired issue I hate to have to keep reiterating.
Is John Tavares of the New York Islanders "beating" Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals or Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs in this season's National Hockey League scoring race?
He has more points than both players. As of this writing, Tavares has 64 points, Kessel 61 and Ovechkin 58. I guess that means Tavares is a better player than Kessel and Kessel is a better player than Ovechkin.
It's quite the simple world we live in when you eliminate nuance from the equation.
Of course, Tavares has the points lead over Kessel and Ovehckin because he has 41 assists to "just" 23 goals. Kessel's more of an even producer with 31 helpers and 30 goals, whereas Ovechkin is a goal-scoring machine -- 39 goals and only 19 assists.
So we can get into different types of players who do different types of things when we discuss these three greats. And, in that conversation, we're all going to have different ideas of who we would want on our team and why. However, we can all agree that all three players are otherworldly, each with their own game changing merits.
It's a relevant analogy to draw when discussing Apple and Google and laptops because -- and I really can't believe I have to go through this again -- Apple doesn't focus on scoring marketshare the way Google does -- or, I should say, strives to.
Now that's not to say Google's approach is bad. It's not. Because it serves Google's purposes (or, at least, is ... hopefully ... on the road to serving Google's purposes ... someday). There's no question Google -- and Apple -- sit hot on Microsoft's trail, but Google's not doing it on the back of the hardware it produces or has others make. Google wants to get its software and services into the hands of consumers any way it can.
The hardware it attaches the Chrome name (and such) to represents merely one channel to make that happen. It's actually quite similar to the Amazon strategy, in that Amazon puts a whole bunch of opportunity out there (channels, features, etc.) for consumers to shop on its core platform. It's not looking to make money on Kindle hardware sales, it's looking to make money purchases you make with your Kindle hardware.
Google wants you to click its ads, as you migrate over to one or more of its software/service offerings, be it Gmail, Google Plus, Google Docs, Google Calendar, what have you. It's a risk. In fact, if you just look at selling hardware in isolation, it's a recipe for corporate suicide. You make nothing on these hardware sales and, quite honestly, your strategy to get people hooked on your ecosystem and, presumably, generate associated ad revenue for you, is so all over the map it doesn't feel like a map even exists.
Personally, I would like to see Google do something to open up a meaningful line of revenue other than advertising. Like put the great minds at the company to work to build premium products that can actually compete -- oranges to oranges -- with Apple. There's no doubt in my mind that if anybody can do that, it's Google.
At this stage, however, it would be nice to know how many pieces of hardware Google and its partners have had to throw away. Beyond that, I'd love to look at the margins.
That said, it's tough to argue with Google's strategy so far.
But it's just not Apple's strategy. And to make parallel comparisons between the two companies on something such as laptop sales (when you really can't be sure what the actual numbers are anyway) is simply not fair.
Tim Cook says it every which way to Sunday, but people can't get it through their information-filtering heads. Here's a line from Apple's most recent conference call I wish would stick:
As I've said before, our objective has always been to make the best, not the most.
That's just a variation of Apple's not a market share story. Never has been. Isn't. Shouldn't be. Better never try to be.
Every time somebody anoints some random piece of hardware an "Apple killer" or "beater," they, sadly, prevent the rest of us from moving what really can be an interesting conversation forward.
--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.