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Ballmer shrugs at Google's Chrome OS

Microsoft's chief executive says having one client operating system is better than two--a lesson Microsoft learned some years ago.

Addressing Google's Chrome OS, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said Tuesday that the move leaves its rival with dual operating systems, something that Microsoft learned the hard way is not a good idea.

"I don't know if they can't make up their mind or what the problem is over there," Ballmer said in an onstage question-and-answer session following his speech at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans. "The last time I checked you don't need two client operating systems."

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer addresses a question about Google's Chrome OS during an onstage talk with Fortune's Geoff Colvin. Screenshot by Ina Fried/CNET

Microsoft, he noted, had separate business and consumer operating systems back in the days of Windows 95 and Windows NT. "It's good to have one."

He also noted, as Stephen Elop did in an interview with CNET News last week, that Microsoft really doesn't know what Chrome OS will look like.

"Who knows what this thing is?" Ballmer said during the talk, which was broadcast over the Web. "To me the Chrome OS thing is highly interesting--it won't happen for a year and a half and they already announced an operating system (Android)."

He rejected the idea that Microsoft needed to mimic Google's approach.

"We don't need a new operating system," Ballmer said. "What we do need to do is to continue to evolve Windows, Windows Applications, IE (Internet Explorer), the way IE works in totality with Windows, and how we build applications like Office... and we need to make sure we can bring our customers and partners with us."

Ballmer said that research data shows that at least 50 percent of the time people are using their PC they are doing something that is not in the browser. "Windows is the operating system for the job."

On the advertising front, Ballmer said Microsoft will continue its advertising that targets Apple. "We're going to continue to tell the story of the PC."