Barney's Rubble

Apple, Microsoft, Google, Twitter: Who's Cool, Who's Not?

Coolness is a fleeting thing. Elvis, for instance, was far cooler young and lean than old and bloated. And Bill Gates is the ultimate in cool now that he's doing his darndest to save the world.

Companies likewise go through hot and cold phases. Yesterday's cool is today's question mark.

MySpace was hot, especially with the kids. I haven't heard anyone mention it for months.

Facebook took over where MySpace left off. While still relatively hot, leading-edge thinkers are ditching the service because its privacy policies seem like they come from the Soviet Politburo.

Twitter is cool for now, but how long will it take for us to tire of badly written, incomprehensible non-sentences?

Google has almost the same trouble. The company, once a beacon of innovation, now protects its monopoly as fiercely as Andrew Carnegie. Its new phone is about the most expensive on the planet, it's putting fine media institutions out of business even though it doesn't have a single reporter, and its ability to spy would make Mata Hari proud.

And Google CEO Eric Schmidt famously said, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

Based on Google's actions -- such as filming our homes and tracking our wireless MAC addresses -- he meant it! Google is simply too big, too powerful and too self-centered to be cool.

Apple is a tougher call. It's hard to knock the Apple products' sense of design and manic attention to detail, but Apple is getting more, rather than less, proprietary. (I'll get an iPhone if Verizon is ever allowed to sell one.) The iPad doesn't even support Adobe Flash, for goodness sake, and the restrictions on apps are now legendary. To make things worse, Apple sent the cops after a reporter -- after he gave an iPhone prototype back! My opinion? Apple is only half-cool.

So where does that leave Microsoft? This presents another split decision. After years of effort, the Xbox is now officially cool. The Zune is not.

Windows 7 is the first Redmond client that can approach the Mac OS for coolness, and Bing -- if you haven't tried it -- is pretty slick.

What do you think about Microsoft's coolness factor? And who else is cool or not? Send your thoughts to [email protected].

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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