Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt snubbed Microsoft in a very calculated way during an appearance this week at the D9 conference Rancho Palos Verdes, California. He referred to a so-called "gang of four," high tech companies that were driving innovation and growing astronomically as a result. These companies include his company, Google, as well as Amazon, Apple, and Facebook.
Schmidt also noted that a few up-and-coming companies, eBay, PayPal and Twitter, were poised to break into the top tier, creating, perhaps, a gang of six or seven. And he further believes that none of these companies will ever combine, thanks to antitrust concerns.
But what about Microsoft?
"Microsoft is not driving the consumer revolution in the mind of the consumers," Schmidt said. "They've done a very good job of getting [customers] locked in on the corporate side."
"Typically, tech companies eventually become boring and middle aged," he added, noting that Microsoft's legacy products would, however, provide "a flywheel that will power Microsoft and what they are doing for many decades."
The current situation, with so many big players, is a new platforms war, Schmidt claimed. And unlike past platforms wars, which included just two players—Apple and Microsoft during the PC wars, for example, or Internet Explorer and Netscape in the original browser wars—this time there are multiple competitors, each with unique consumer-oriented offerings.
Apple, he said, created beautiful consumer products. Facebook organizes "every friend you've ever known, and even ones you can't quite remember." Amazon is "the world's largest bookstore" (which seemed like a bit of a snub; Amazon is of course much more than that.) And Google "organizes the world's information."Of course, pundits have been declaring Microsoft's consumer initiatives a disaster for years, and its Zune and Windows Phone brands have met with withering consumer indifference. The software giant has only a single successful consumer brand, Xbox, which it is expanding beyond traditional video game roles. (In fact, Microsoft this week coincidentally claimed that 40 percent of Xbox 360 usage is for non-video game activities.)