The New York Times > Business > Your Money > Digital Domain: After 20 Years, Finally Capitalizing on Cool: "Consider some competitors. Microsoft has a near-monopoly on the basic software used on the hardware owned by most people, enabling the company to extract what is basically a head tax. Google has a near-monopoly in the digital library business, which enables it to do very well with advertising that monetizes eyeballs. But Apple has an absolute monopoly on the asset that is the most difficult for competitors to copy: cool.
Apple is well positioned for the future. When consumers open their wallets to buy things that have machine intelligence, or provide digital entertainment, or link to the Internet - that is, just about everything in a household that is not edible - they are likely to be drawn to the company with cachet, offering the best-designed, best-engineered, easiest-to-use products, priced affordably thanks to Mr. Moore's old law and Mr. Jobs's new pragmatism. They'll turn to the company that best knows how to meld hardware and software, the company embodied in the ecstatically happy hipster silhouette. The company that is, in a word, cool.
Apple has $6.4 billion in cash, a seemingly small sum next to Microsoft's $64 billion. But it is Microsoft, the poor little rich kid, who must be envious of Apple. All of the billions in its corporate treasury, all of the personal billions of the co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, all of the money in the world, cannot buy the ability to fathom the metaphysical mystery of cool."
Lots of interesting historical tidbits. Curious that the author (Randall Stross) never seems to mention his book Steve Jobs and the Next Big Thing.