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Google's Eric Schmidt talks tech's 'Big Four', social networks, Macs and music

Google's former CEO talks about the big four companies -- Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon -- music and Macs.

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt talked frankly at the first day of the D9 Conference on a variety of subjects including dominant technology companies, social networking, privacy, security and music, our sister site CNET News reports.

It's clear there's no love lost between Google and Microsoft. Though Schmidt, now the search giant's executive chairman, has previously made comments about the competitive threat it posed, Microsoft is not a part of his "Big Four".

Naturally, Google is part of the gang, which also includes Apple, Facebook and Amazon. These are all global companies with a strong consumer brand, offering products or services people can't get elsewhere.

He spoke of his regret that Google had not aggressively challenged Facebook in the social space, saying he strongly admired what billionaire butcher Mark Zuckerberg's company has achieved. Google lost out to Microsoft on a Facebook search partnership last year.

Schmidt believes music is a fundamental part of the Internet. Google has been trying to support a subscription cloud-based music service but has been unable to strike deals with the record companies, despite launching Music Beta in the States. It looks as if Apple has beaten it to the punch.

He was at pains to convince users that Google is transparent with how it uses data it collects from the search engine. He pointed out that it's still possible to use Google anonymously and its services always ask a user's permission before collecting information.

It seems there's still a special place in Eric's heart for Apple, despite no longer being on its board and directly competing in several areas, including mobile phone software. He confirmed there would be an ongoing partnership with Apple in the area of maps and search, meaning Apple has possibly shelved its own map plans. When asked how to stay secure, he said, "Use a Mac." Perhaps his answer will change when Chromebooks arrive.

As for a Web browser? He claimed Chrome offered the fastest and most secure online experience and now had a 15 per cent market share.

What do you think? Does Google have a right to suggest it's one of the big four tech companies? Is it still an innovator or is it becoming another boring Microsoft?