Microsoft is decidedly unphased by the announcement of the Chrome operating system, with chief executive Steve Ballmer claiming that Google is making a big mistake.

In comments made at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference – and recorded by CNet – Ballmer claimed to be confused as to “what the problem is over [at Google],” accusing the company of making the same mistake Microsoft made back in the early days of 32-bit Windows.

Claiming that Chrome and Android represented business and consumer operating system respectively Ballmer derided Google's plans, stating that “the last time I checked you don't need two client operating systems.

This is something that Microsoft has a certain amount of experience in: when first making the move to a 32-bit operating system, Microsoft had two separate business units: one developed the commercially-oriented Windows NT operating system; the other, the consumer-targeted Windows 95. Now, both the home and server editions of Windows share a common codebase – something which makes maintaining and improving the operating system much less of a headache.

While Ballmer has a point, it can be argued that Google's two operating systems are more like Windows Vista and Windows Mobile than NT and 95: despite various companies shoe-horning Android onto netbooks, it's an operating system that will always be more at home on small, low power devices like PDAs and smartphones; Chrome, by comparison, is a fully-fledged operating system more able to make use of the capabilities of a powerful PC.

One thing is for sure: Microsoft will be keeping a close eye on both Android and Chrome, with Ballmer describing Google's OS plans as “highly interesting [although] it won't happen for a year and a half.

Does Microsoft has cause to worry, or is Google's Chrome likely to be all polish and no substance? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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