Windows OSMicrosoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, has said at Microsoft Developer Forum at Tokyo, Japan on what has been speculated since Windows 7 release, that the next version of Windows operating system, Windows 8, will RTM (released to manufacturing) and available in stores in 2012. Windows 7 was released in 2009, around 3 years after general availability of Windows Vista in 2006. And many Windows enthusiasts have expected Windows 8 to arrive by second half of 2012.

What’s interesting is the official name for “Windows 8”. The name of Windows 8 has automatically and naturally popped up after Windows 7. Unlike Windows Vista which had a codename “Longhorn”, and Windows 7 which was codenamed “Blackcomb” and later “Vienna” while in development, Windows 8 does not have a know codename other than “Windows Next”, and in leaked builds, as “Microsoft Confidential”. So, Windows 8 can be the codename for the next-generation Windows OS, but can turn into official name too. Microsoft has refrained from calling the upcoming Windows OS as Windows 8, until now.

Steve Ballmer used the Windows 8 in the conference speech too, as captured in the transcript, which reads as follow:

We’re obviously hard at work on the next version of Windows. Windows 7 PCs will sell over 350 million units this year. We’ve done a lot in Windows 7 to improve customer satisfaction. We have a brand new user interface. We’ve added touch, and ink, and speech. 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.

The Steve’s statement was quickly retracted though, with Microsoft sending out statement everywhere which reads “it appears there was a misstatement. We are eagerly awaiting the next generation of Windows 7 hardware that will be available in the coming fiscal year. To date, we have yet to formally announce any timing or naming for the next version of Windows.”

With Windows 8 name been so popular currently, it’s hard to imagine Microsoft will name it otherwise though. And despite the denial, Windows 8 will likely to on track to release next year, before Mac OS X, iOS and Adnroid make further inroad to gain market share against Windows in all-important PC, slate and tablet market. The development of Windows 8 has said to be moved past Milestone 3 (M3) pre-alpha stage into alpha stage now, where the next logical stage is beta. Windows 8 Beta is even rumored to arrive as early as September 2011.

And the sneak preview of Windows 8 may come as soon as early June, when D: All Things Digital conference (D() which takes place from May 31-June 2, 2011 at Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft President for Windows division, is set to be a speaker at the conference to “talk about the future of Windows in the era of all kinds of new devices and the cloud,” according to D9 announcement, where a demo or “technology preview” of Windows 8 tablet interface is possible.

The speech by Steve Ballmer also confirmed that Windows 8 will support ARM processors, which used in more than 90% of slates and tablets available in the market today.

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