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Board Games: Apple 1; Google 1

CNBC.com

It was just a matter of time. Not an "if," but a "when."

The only question for former Genentech CEO Arthur Levinson was what board he'd choose to stay on: Apple's or Google's . We should all be troubled by such difficult decisions.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt found himself in the same position, having to choose one board over another as Google and Apple found themselves increasingly on a competitive collision course with tricky things like operating systems and mobile devices. And then there's the Feds, courtesy of the FTC, looking into the all-too-cozy relationships and inter-relationships between these two companies.

And that's why Levinson's decision is so much more intriguing than Schmidt's, so much more noteworthy, so much more compelling. Schmidt, as Google's top executive, couldn't very well choose Apple's board over his own. Levinson had a real choice and he chose Apple.

If this were a popularity contest, Apple can chalk this up as pretty big win. It also saves Apple from having to fill two positions on its board, rather than just one. Not that the company is in any hurry to replace Schmidt (it doesn't have to, but will likely choose to), but two seats rather than one could have sent an ominous sign even if shareholders understood all the machinations behind these two executives and their tenure on Apple's board.

The fact is, both companies are surging: Google is seeing big-time momentum with its Android operating system, and new deals with Verizon , Dell , AT&T , and others. Look at Thomas Weisel's new price target this morning, and it seems Google will be off to the races again. That's good.

Apple is also seeing significant momentum: retail sales seem strong, iPhone is doing well, the App Store is bordering on miraculous, Mac sales are actually increasing even in the face of Microsoft's impending Win7 release next week, consumers are still spending on iPod, there's that Mac tablet on the way that Piper says will be another $1 billion device, that enormous cash position.

Like I said, everyone should face such difficult choices, and Levinson took some thoughtful time in making his. But I can't help but think that knowing what he knows, who he knows, that his choice sends a clear message: Apple is the better bet; Apple offers the better opportunity; Apple poses the better proposition.

Levinson didn't have to say it. He showed it with his choice. And I suspect there are tens of thousands of Mac fans out there who would agree wholeheartedly.

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