Ballmer Laughs at Google Challenge

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer laughed off the very idea of Google doing an operating system, much less it being any sort of challenge to Microsoft's love-it-or-hate-it Windows franchise.

Being rather coy, Ballmer called Chrome "Interesting." In full: "I will be respectful, who knows what this thing is? 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." The last was a reference to Android, Google's announced operating system for mobile devices.

Ballmer's words came at a conference for the company's technology partners in New Orleans. The audience, largely in favor of Microsoft, laughed lightly at Ballmer's remarks.

Despite the frivolous tone of Ballmer's remarks, Microsoft appears to be taking Google as a serious threat to its core businesses. It has announced recently that it would make portions of Office, its ubiquitous business suite, free online (much like Google's similar, online-only office suite).

Microsoft has also tried once again to corner the search engine market, after failing with Live Search. The new Bing search engine is aimed squarely at stripping Google of at least some of its market share and mindshare as the Internet's biggest and best known search engine.

Is this a story of two competitors, or a tale of two businesses that are forgetting their core markets for the purpose of engaging in a pissing match against each other? Only time will tell.