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Schmidt: Microsoft will never be as cool as the Gang of Four

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Tablet-friendly Windows 8 won't allow Microsoft into Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google's cosy clique, said Google’s executive chairman.

Quoted in a rather thin Wall Street Journal Q&A, Eric Schmidt maintained his belief that Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook comprise a consumer-pleasing web-conquering “gang of four”. And despite Microsoft's touch-driven Windows 8 and Surface slab launch, the Redmond giant is still persona non grata.

Schmidt told the WSJ: “We had never in our industry seen four network platforms that scale. We had seen IBM and we had seen Microsoft. But now we have four, and the resultant competition is a huge change in the industry.”

Asked for his thoughts on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, the search supremo replied: “I have not used it.” He wasn't asked to clarify what the “it” actually was, but added: “I think that Microsoft has not emerged as a trend setter in this new model yet.”

Schmidt isn’t the first in the gang of four to diss Microsoft without having bothered to check what the company is offering: Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote off Microsoft’s Surface tablet on the day of its launch in October without even having a fondle.

“I haven't personally played with the Surface yet," Cook said during a conference call on Apple’s fourth-quarter results, "but what we're reading about it is that it's a fairly compromised, confusing product."

On Surface’s hybrid status as a laptop-cum-tablet, combining a touchscreen with optional keyboard, Cook said at the time: "I suppose you could design a car that flies and floats, but I don't think it would do all of those things very well."

Even though Apple and Google are in the same cosy clique, they still have massive fallings out, such as the crap iOS map app that replaced Google's superior software on Apple devices. However Schmidt, a former Google CEO, insisted they do all get along:

The press would like to write the sort of teenage model of competition, which is, 'I have a gun, you have a gun, who shoots first?' The adult way to run a business is to run it more like a country. They have disputes, yet they've actually been able to have huge trade with each other. They're not sending bombs at each other. I think both Tim [Cook, Apple's CEO] and Larry [Page, Google's CEO], the sort of successors to Steve [Jobs] and me if you will, have an understanding of this state model. When they and their teams meet, they have just a long list of things to talk about.

However, Schmidt said it was “extremely curious” that Apple was suing Google's Android partners rather than Google itself. Apple is pursuing Motorola and Samsung over Android, Google's mobile operating system that rivals Apple's iOS, taking issue with smartphone features such as scroll bars and pinch-to-zoom.

Schmidt also repeated his view that only people with something to hide worry about losing their privacy online. ®

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