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There were plenty of headline-grabbing comments from Google chairman Eric Schmidt tonight coming out of the D9 conference in California. Many of them were not-so-subtle digs at Microsoft, which Schmidt all but dismissed as a provider of consumer technology platforms.

He topped it off by recommending that anyone interested in security choose Macs over Windows PCs.

Here are some of the high points (or low points, depending on your perspective) from Schmidt’s conversation with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, sourced from the conference videos and posts by AllThingsD’s Ina Fried and Peter Kafka and ZDNet’s Larry Dignan.

Eric Schmidt Tuesday night at D9. (Credit: Asa Mathat, All Things Digital)

In past eras of technology, one company has ruled. Microsoft and IBM, for example. But now, Schmidt sees a “gang of four” companies providing the major consumer technology platforms — Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

“Each of them is a consumer brand that provides something that you can’t do otherwise,” he said. “What’s different now is that these are global companies with reach and economics that ten years ago or 20 years ago one company had.”

He said the question is whether each of those companies can maintain the “product excellence” required to keep up with the evolution of technology.

Schmidt said he believes Microsoft is “not driving the consumer revolution.” He doesn’t count Microsoft’s Xbox business because it’s “not a platform at the computational level.”

He said the fifth and sixth top consumer platforms are open to debate, mentioning PayPal and Twitter as possibilities but again leaving Microsoft out.

On the subject of security, Schmidt recommended using Google’s Chrome browser. After Mossberg followed up, Schmidt added, “You could also use a Mac instead of a PC.” No mention of the MacDefender malware for which Apple released a security update today.

Schmidt said Google would like to work more closely with Facebook, but Microsoft (a minority owner of the social network) seems to have those deals locked up. “We’ve tried very hard to partner with Facebook,” Schmidt said. “Traditionally, they’ve done deals with Microsoft.” Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has said his company prefers Microsoft because it’s the underdog.

On the subject of Amazon.com, Schmidt said nice things about the Seattle company’s cloud computing technologies and its distribution expertise.

He went on to address many other other topics, including privacy, and introduced the new Google Offers service, a rival to Groupon, making its debut on Wednesday in Portland, of all places. See Ina Fried’s live blog for a comprehensive rundown.

Also appearing at the D9 conference will be Microsoft Windows president Steven Sinofksy, who is expected to show off Microsoft’s upcoming tablet technology but us unlikely to get into a public war of words with the Google chairman.

Follow-up: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on his Microsoft board position, Steve Ballmer dustup

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