Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Profiting from Apple's war with Google

March 24, 2010: 12:20 PM ET

A trader who is long on AAPL and short on GOOG says Steve Jobs is taking Google down

It's been a busy couple of weeks for revelations about Steve Jobs' falling out with Google's Eric Schmidt.

On March 12, we had Brad Stone and Michael Helft's piece in the New York Times about the two CEO's long-running "spat." It included an account of a particularly "fierce" and "heated" meeting in 2008 in which an angry Steve Jobs told Google (GOOG) executives that if they deployed a version of multitouch in an Android phone, he would sue.

Google deployed and, as promised, Apple (AAPL) sued, although its target -- at least at first -- was not Google but its smartphone manufacturer, HTC.

Then on Monday we were treated to Valleywag's gossipy description of a one-sided phone conversation that took place shortly after news broke that HTC was building an Android phone. Jobs, according to this account, "shouted" and "railed" at Google's CEO until Schmidt's face went "weird."

"Steve was very, very upset," Schmidt is said to have later told a companion. "My God, he was so angry."

It's in this context that Jason Schwarz, an investment analyst with a knack for self promotion -- through a newsletter, an e-book, and a new hardcover book -- writes that "Google is in trouble ... They've ruffled the wrong feathers." Having gone long on Apple and short on Google, he's betting that Google is headed to $300 a share -- and doing his best to help it get there.

In a piece posted on Seeking Alpha Wednesday, he cites five factors contributing to Google's supposed "demise." It's totally self serving, so take it with a grain of salt. But his list of Google's problems say a lot about how at least some Wall Street insiders view the rivalry. The highlights:

  1. Leadership. "This company is running like a chicken with its head cut off," Schwarz writes. "CEO Eric Schmidt is flying solo without the help of founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin who are actually selling shares themselves."
  2. Profitable Innovation. Google is having trouble making money from anything but search, which is why, he says, hardly a week goes by without word of another Google innovation. "Last week it was Google broadband. This week it's Google TV. It's all a big joke. Even Android is a joke."
  3. Mobile Search Competition. "The problem for Google," he writes, "is that the mobile Internet relies on applications rather than websites. Apple controls more than half of the mobile Web market share and Google is one Steve Jobs decision away from being left out of the Apple ecosystem."
  4. Brand Trust. "Nexus One was a disaster on so many levels... While Apple spent years securing patents to protect the intellectual property of the iPhone, Google is late to the game and is running scared. How much money will consumers invest in Android apps when they know Google offers no Tablet and might not continue with the Nexus One?"
  5. China. "This China thing has been catastrophic for Google. After struggling to gain any share from Baidu (BIDU), Google is out of a country that has more Internet users than the U.S. has people. Not good."

It's always a mistake to read too much into what Wall Street does on any one day, but the market seems to be betting with Schwarz. At the close of trading Wednesday, Apple had set yet another all-time high ($229.37). Google, have fallen as much as 10 points during the day, managed to close at $557.33 -- above it's opening price but more than 70 points off its 52-week high.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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