"Who knows what that thing is," said Ballmer, speaking Tuesday at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner conference in New Orleans. "To me, this Chrome thing is highly interesting," said Ballmer, somewhat wryly.
Ballmer said Google's intention to market two operating systems—the search giant already has its Android OS for mobile devices—could confuse the marketplace.
"I don't know if they can't make up their mind or what the problem is over there, but the last time I checked, you don't need two client operating systems," said Ballmer. "It's good to have one," he said.
Some analysts, however, would disagree. Microsoft's Vista OS flopped in the enterprise market and a survey released this week by management tools vendor ScriptLogic claimed that 59% of businesses have no plans to adopt Windows 7, which will be available to them September 1.
That has some pundits arguing that it's time for Microsoft to create separate consumer and business lines. Enterprises, the thinking goes, are clinging to Windows XP because they don't need all the bells and whistles in Vista and Windows 7.
Windows sales dropped 16% in the most recent quarter. Microsoft is expected to announce financial results for its fiscal year on Thursday.
Ballmer remains undaunted. Google's Chrome, he noted, "Won't happen for a year and a half." Microsoft undoubtedly hopes that by then Windows 7 will be firmly ensconced in the marketplace. The consumer version of Windows 7 is expected to be available on Oct. 22.
Microsoft shares fell slightly Tuesday to close at $23.11.
InformationWeek has published an in depth report on Windows 7. Download the report here (registration required).