Rob Enderle on Microsoft, Apple, and Google.

Rob Enderle is one of a handful of names the Mac community knows well. There’s kind of a “Three Musketeers” of Apple analysts: Rob, Paul Thurrott, and John Dvorak, who are generally confused about Apple’s strategies and target markets. They have always viewed Apple through Microsoft-colored glasses, attempting to shoehorn their every move in terms the Redmond giant would use.

The problem, of course, is that Apple is not like Microsoft, nor does it try to be. Steve Jobs himself said the battle for the desktop is over, and Microsoft won. Meanwhile, Apple’s latest huge successes since Steve Jobs’ return have caused, albeit slowly, many analysts to rethink their approach to how Apple operates, and understand it on its own terms. This does not mean deciding that Microsoft’s approach is now suddenly wrong (though it’s outdated), but rather only that there’s more than one way to skin the proverbial cat, and Apple’s own approach to its products and target market is different, and brilliantly executed.

Unfortunately, the Three Musketeers have gained their reputation among those who follow Apple for the very simple reason that they have not rethought Apple’s approach. They are still Microsoft apologists, and still do not understand Apple’s approach to its products and markets at all. In their view, it’s still 1997 and Apple is doomed, with the only change being they got lucky with a one-hit wonder (the iPod) which will soon die out.

I’ve taken Paul Thurrott to task a few times on this blog, but today it’s Rob’s turn. With this article on Earthweb, all that’s wrong with his thinking, and all his anti-Apple biases, not only come home to roost, but they have moved in, bought new furniture, and do not plan on leaving anytime soon.

His article is lengthy, and covers Apple, Microsoft, and Google. It’s worth reading so you can understand how misguided he is in terms of Apple. Here are a few of the more “quote-worthy” moments:

“Surrounding Google is Open Source, a movement that Microsoft is attempting to embrace, Apple is running away from, and Google is using very profitably.”

Rob, you owe me a new keyboard and monitor. I spewed the beverage I was drinking when I read that part about Microsoft attempting to embrace Open Source. Frankly, even though I’m only in the opening paragraph of your article I would have every reason to conclude you’re having a bad day and just stop right here.

“Currently the lead offering is not a PC but the iPod, and Apple has even removed the “Computer” part of its name to reflect this change. But a product like an iPod has a limited run, something Sony (Walkman) and Palm can attest to.”

Forget the name change, Rob, it’s been done to death. It was a whole lot less about deemphasizing the computer (because Apple has always been seen as a maker of computers), and a whole lot more about getting people open to the idea that Apple does more than computers.

The iPod has a limited run? Sure, like anything. Apple should be lucky enough to have Sony’s “limited run” of the Walkman. Twenty years. Over 300 million sold. That’s longer than the Windows monopoly, which is already showing cracks in the armor. Oh, and Macs brought in more money than iPods last quarter, so don’t fool yourself into thinking the Mac isn’t still relevant. It is, in fact, more relevant than it’s ever been.

“Apple is now betting on the iPhone.”

Huh? With a couple of paragraphs you’ve written off the Mac and iPod as non-entities. Are you insane? Sure, the iPhone is extremely important to Apple, but it’s not like they need a hit right now because their other products are stagnating. Sheesh.

Rob then goes on to mention all the iPhone negatives we’ve all heard before, most of which are dubious at best. He also says Apple shouldn’t go it alone, and should partner with someone:

“Like other Apple products it has a very clean UI and Industrial Design and it will be backed by Jobs, but it showcases Apple’s “do it alone” disadvantage… In an established market, you don’t need to learn by experience.”

Rob, who is AT&T? Chopped liver?

Rob then states that Leopard is Apple’s enterprise entry. How does he know this? Well, because he’s Rob Enderle, Principle (and only?) Analyst at the Enderle Group, that’s how. Must be, because he presents nothing else to support his statement. Anyway, having made the statement, he can once again mention that Apple must partner with somebody to attack the enterprise. After all, Microsoft did, and what’s good for Microsoft is good for… well, you know.

“IT doesn’t want vendors who learn on IT’s nickel, but Apple’s partnership history is horrid and they are unlikely to even try to partner to penetrate the Enterprise.”

Why is it the Three Musketeers still feel Apple must be about the enterprise? Apple doesn’t really care that much about the enterprise with its desktops. That seems clear. It’s not that they don’t take the business, but it’s not an active pursuit of theirs. They are all about consumers. The opposite of Microsoft in many ways. What’s the problem here? Why is this so hard to see?

Mind you, I think OS X server is more of an enterprise thing, and Apple may very well assault that market through the back door, but that’s not what Rob is talking about. Servers don’t even appear to be on his radar, yet further proof that he isn’t looking at this right.

The article then continues with a brief examination of Microsoft. What’s odd is that he gets some of it right. The reason this is odd is that it’s the same playbook he wants Apple to use!

The bulk of the article is about Google. When the assessment begins with a paragraph like this, you can pretty much guess where it’s headed:

“It must be difficult for both Apple and Microsoft’s CEO to look at Google and remember what it was like when they were the stars of tech. Much like an aging award-winning actress who now plays only supporting roles, both Apple and Microsoft’s stars have paled under the brilliance of young Google’s rising star.”

As expected, it’s positive. Google is the new darling while Apple and Microsoft are all but dinosaurs. However, In their joint interview at the Wall Street Journal’s D: All Thing Digital conference, I think both Bill gates and Steve Jobs articulated very well the place rich local applications (and the machines they run on) have in today’s world. Bottom line is that while the death of the PC has been predicted many times, there is always a balance of local processing power and storage with what’s in the cloud.

Steve went so far as to say that a PC of some sort is likely to be the central repository for the “digital hub” (with ancillary devices like music players, cameras, phones, etc. hanging off that) and rich client applications that make use of data in the cloud, but can better balance processing and bandwidth usage locally, for the foreseeable future. I tend to agree with that assessment.

For Apple, especially, Google’s “rising star” is not a bad thing at all since they have chosen to partner with them. We know about the iPhone stuff, but there’s also the recent announcement on YouTube videos coming to the Apple TV. Microsoft, on the other hand, has chosen to compete with Google directly in what Google does best: Search and Advertising. Good luck with that. Apple can grow with Google, Microsoft, on it present course, cannot. That’s yet another important (in fact, critical) distinction between the business plans coming out of Cupertino and Redmond. And one that Rob, not surprisingly, seems to miss.