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Microsoft bigwigs Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer have broken their silence on Google Chrome OS, with attacks questioning the capabilities of the new platform.

CEO Ballmer promised to be "respectful" of Chrome OS, but did point out that the Google desktop operating system won't ship for a year and a half, a fact that relegates it to the vapourware category for now.

"The Chrome OS thing is highly interesting," said Ballmer, before adding, "'Who knows what this thing is?"

Ballmer also knocked Google for developing two client operating systems: Android, which is gaining traction as an OS for smartphones and maybe other mobile devices; and Chrome OS, which will debut on netbooks and eventually challenge Windows 7 on laptops and desktops, Google hopes.

According to Reuters, Ballmer implied that the Google OS efforts lack focus:

"'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.'"

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, meanwhile, said he was surprised at the level of interest in Chrome OS.

"There's many, many forms of Linux operating systems out there and packaged in different ways and booted in different ways," the Microsoft founder told Cnet.

"In some ways I am surprised people are acting like there's something new. I mean, you've got Android running on netbooks. It's got a browser in it."