Google Punkslaps Apple - Cook Makes Strategic Error

| About: Apple Inc. (AAPL)
This article is now exclusive for PRO subscribers.

By Rocco Pendola

If I am Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), here's what I do today, in response to the outrage iPhone users have expressed toward the removal of Google Maps in favor of an inferior in-house product from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).

Issue a press release that says something like:

In light of the consumer backlash to Apple's new maps application in iOS 6, Google is willing to make a standalone app available to Apple iPhone users for free. Once a user deems the Apple Maps usable, they can continue to enjoy Google Maps for a one-time charge of $1.99.

We encourage you to phone Apple customer support requesting this option.

Nobody knows if Google has made this offer privately to Apple. Scattered reports say yes. Others say no. It really doesn't matter.

In any event, I don't expect Google to make a snide PR move. While it would be funny, it's probably a miscalculation.

It makes no sense for Google to follow an Apple screwup with one of its own.

Tim Cook messed up. There's not a nicer way to say it. It doesn't matter now. It might not matter for a while. But it's still quite sad.

Apparently Larry Page met with Steve Jobs at the latter's home shortly before his death. Jobs gave Page, a supposed arch rival, advice.

Jobs didn't meet with just anybody. According to accounts in his biography, he had a huge amount of respect for entrepreneurs. If he saw whatever it was he was looking for in you, he would carve out some quality time. And he would give you advice, even if you were a competitor.

He did that with Page. He even did it with Yahoo (YHOO) years back. Interestingly, he gave the same advice to both companies - figure out what you want to be and focus on it. Oddly, I don't feel like either company listened.

Maybe Jobs was giving them lip service. Maybe they're both just staffed by complete fools. Maybe it's a combination of both. I don't know.

But, I know this. Tim Cook made a strategic error here.

Clearly, dropping Google Maps in favor of Apple's own mapping platform was part slap in the face to Google. Instead, Google, even if it never responds, ended up punkslapping Apple without even trying.

When you compete like Apple, Google and (NASDAQ:AMZN) compete, there's really a quiet respect for the other that each company from the top down abides by. It's a bit like the various "codes" hockey players have between one another. You pick your spots to show the other one up. You don't just recklessly and disrespectfully start shooting bullets.

That's what Cook did. He simultaneously disrespected Google and made a fool of himself as well as Apple.

By putting out a horribly crude and unfinished product - something Jobs never would have done - you both discount the quality of Google Maps and take a nasty bite out of the Apple aura of beautiful products, creativity and obsessive attention to detail.

If there's anything iPhone users and most humans in general love about Google - it's search and it's maps. Nobody does it better. So Cook takes one of the things that drives iPhone's success (who doesn't use Google Maps on a regular basis?) and dumps it in favor of something that looks like it was written on a Commodore 64.

Let this be a lesson to Cook. One that he better heed.

Looking forward, he might have his sights set on a streaming music service. Bad move, but if he goes forward with it, leave Pandora (NYSE:P) right where it is.

If you keep removing the features that meaningfully contribute to iPhone's (and iPad's) success, you run the risk of not having lines, sold-out stores and pent-up demand like you do today.

And, over time, as this sort of misstep happens more frequently, investors will catch wind and AAPL stock will suffer.

Disclosure: I am long P. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.