Ballmer Says 'Windows 8' Coming in 2012

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer talked about the company's next-generation operating system on Monday in Japan, even going so far as to call it "Windows 8."

Windows 8 is widely expected to be the name of Microsoft's next OS, though top company executives have generally avoided using the term. In fact, Microsoft quickly issued a denial to several media outlets after Ballmer's pronouncement, claiming that the Windows 8 mention and schedule Ballmer described was a "misstatement."

Speaking at the Microsoft Developer Forum in Tokyo, Ballmer suggested that Microsoft's next OS after Windows 7 will appear sometime in 2012. He also indicated Windows 8 will run on various device sizes.

"We're obviously hard at work on the next version of Windows," Ballmer told the crowd, according to a Microsoft-produced transcript (page 4). "And yet, as we look forward to the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year, there's a whole lot more coming. As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors."

Until this point, company officials have used the "Windows Next" description, which was first announced at the Computer Electronics Show (CES) in January. Microsoft's employees, meanwhile, have been less cautious about the term, freely using "Windows 8" on their resumes.

Microsoft has already put Windows 7 on various tablet devices, but they are sometimes considered to be more expensive and lacking extended battery support found in competing products. At CES, Microsoft had announced a "Windows Next" to run on system-on-chip (SoC) architectures, including designs by AMD, Intel and ARM Holdings. The idea is that Microsoft will be able to port Windows to smaller form factors, such as tablets, with better power-saving capabilities. It's thought that applications too would have to be revised for ARM-based devices running Windows.

Last week, an Intel senior vice president claimed that Microsoft would produce a Windows 8 "traditional" OS for x86-based devices plus a Windows 8 for ARM-based devices. The Intel executive suggested that older applications would not run on the ARM devices and that there will be four Windows 8 OSes for ARM-based products. A Microsoft official didn't specifically debunk those claims, but called them "factually inaccurate and unfortunately misleading."

Ballmer's speech was targeted to developers in Japan and covered a lot more ground than just the company's Windows Next plans. He said that Microsoft was focusing on natural user interfaces (handwriting, speech, touch and vision) and natural language where devices might have a greater semantic understanding of information. He described Bing and other search engines as being primitive examples of software interpreting human intentions. He also emphasized Microsoft's focus beyond C++ and C# and .NET to widespread use of HTML and JavaScript.

Ballmer also touched on Windows Phone, acknowledging that the consumer mobile OS came to market "about a year later than I wish we had." Windows Phone 7 was launched in November, but Ballmer promised a new release later this year that will add "over 500 new features to Windows Phone."

This new release likely will be the "Mango" Windows Phone 7 update, promised by Microsoft to appear this fall. Mango, which is also being called "Windows Phone 7.5," will add Internet Explorer 9, integration with Twitter and access to Windows Live SkyDrive cloud storage, among other features. Microsoft detailed some of Mango's expected 500 new features in a New York launch event on Tuesday.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.