Microsoft's Ballmer says next-gen Windows systems due in 2012

Microsoft's Ballmer says next-gen Windows systems due in 2012

Summary: During remarks at a developers conference in Japan on May 23, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer referred to the next version of Windows as "Windows 8." He also said the next generation of Windows systems will be out next year.


During remarks at a developers conference in Japan on May 23, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer referred to the next version of Windows as "Windows 8." He also said the next generation of Windows systems will be out next year.

To those not following Microsoft's Windows saga closely, this may seem like a "so what" moment. But Microsoft execs have been studiously avoiding any references to the timing or naming of the next version of Windows to try to keep the specifics of the product as quiet as possible. Microsoft's top brass has been avoiding calling the next version of Windows "Windows 8" publicly, preferring instead to call it "Windows Next." (Internally, a number of  Microsoft job postings and leaked slides have referenced "Windows 8," however."

Here's what Ballmer said today in Tokyo about Windows 8, according to Microsoft's own transcript:

"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."

Parsing Ballmer's words further, it's interesting he called out Windows 8 slates and tablets as two separate form factors. Last year, Microsoft was pushing Windows Embedded Compact as its slate operating system, designed for devices that were more about consumption than creation....

It's also interesting that Ballmer did not say specifically that "the next generation of Windows systems" due out next year were Windows 8 systems. (There's been some speculation that Microsoft might deliver ARM-based tablets separately from Windows 8 laptops, PCs and notebooks -- with some company watchers predicting that Win8 tablets would ship before the other SKUs, and others predicting they'd ship afterwards. I've heard from my contacts that Microsoft is planning to deliver all Windows 8 SKUs simultaneously, however.)

The head of Windows, President Steven Sinofsky, is slated to speak next week at the AllThingsD conference, where many are expecting him to show off an internal build of Windows 8 (whether or not he actually refers to it using the Windows 8 codename).

Microsoft is expected to provide testers with a first tech preview or beta of Windows 8 in mid-September during the company's developer conference in Anaheim, Calif. The rumored release-to-manufacturing date of Windows 8 is mid-2012, with holiday 2012 retail availability targeted.

Update: OK, believe it or not, the "official" response is Ballmer's statement isn't what it seems to be... Sent from a Microsoft spokesman earlier tonight:

"“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.”

And, as usual, there are many ways to interpret these remarks. Is the next-generation Windows release nothing but Windows 7 with new paint? Windows 8 not the final name for the next version of Windows? (The final name possibly being something other than Windows 8 is something that I've heard from my tipsters...) You be the judge....

Topics: Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • This should be interesting

    I love Windows 7, I see where there are areas for improvements, as with all software programs, but I am gonna be honest. Windows 8 will be a hard sell for existing Windows 7 users, probably be a reason for Windows XP users to upgrade, but I have concluded that persons who are still running the 10 year old OS are stuck in their ways and happy with it. Bit of a predicament.
    Mr. Dee
    • I'm more then curious at this point

      @Mr. Dee
      But we are getting to that point where the tipping point is apon the XP users - go with 7, or go with 8 as hardware won't last forever, and I know of a few people that are looking to upgrade to 7, with a few still waiting to get 1 more years out of their current machines.

      So I agree, it'll be interesting.
      Will Pharaoh
    • RE: Microsoft's Ballmer says next-gen Windows systems due in 2012

      @Mr. Dee

      I'm a happy Windows 7 user, and I am very skeptical that Windows 8 will be a must-have.
      • RE: Microsoft's Ballmer says next-gen Windows systems due in 2012

        @DonRupertBitByte It's ok, MSFT has already made it's profit with you... for now.
      • That's getting a bit ahead of the game... No?

        After all, we really don't know all that much about what the final next gen Windows will have. What all do we really know about it so far? That it's coming - likely within the next year. And that is pretty much all we know for sure. Those leaked builds don't really have all that much to show - and that's because they're early builds. And that's OK. When they pre-previewed Windows 7 at the PDC in 2008, it didn't have the new task bar features in place either. We'll just have to be patient and see what they're going to do this time.
    • RE: Microsoft's Ballmer says next-gen Windows systems due in 2012

      @Mr. Dee I am partially with you!!! It is my feeling that windows 7 is gaining traction... having almost 90% market share I think we can all agree that a majority of windows users are tech heads and won't run out to buy the latest OS. To add to this... I think a large group of windows users don't use their computers for more than internet and email... this being said, I think that these users are going to be looking at mobile devices like a tablet. I know there is going to be a tablet version of 8; so, lets hope it is one that windows users will want to use! <br><br>I feel Windows 7 is hands down the best OS MS has ever put out!!! I also feel that there is a lot of room for improvements. I wish the Registry would go away... I think OSx has the right idea there, but I find OSx to be a little cluttered and confusing, but maybe that is because I don't use it enough.<br><br>Either way, I hope 8 is a hit on all platforms.
      • &quot;best OS MS has ever put out!!!&quot;


        Kind of like" most intelligent vegetable ever!" (Attribution to Dave Berry)
      • OS X Alternative to the Registry

        @apetti .plist files all over your hard disk is not a better alternative to the Windows Registry. I don't see what is wrong with the Registry anyway, it does what its suppose to do, store information about application dependencies, driver information, system changes and so on. Seems like a smart thing for an operating system to do.
        Mr. Dee
      • RE: Microsoft's Ballmer says next-gen Windows systems due in 2012

        Mr. Dee is obviously not a developer. Maintainable apps = isolated apps.
      • RE: Microsoft's Ballmer says next-gen Windows systems due in 2012

        There's no magic difference between a file system and a registry -- both are basically pointers to data, both can be corrupted. burtonrodman, you talk like a big-shot developer, so use the right tool for the job, whatever it may be, including a registry if your app features discoverability or shares static information with other apps.
      • They've already fixed a LOT of what was wrong with the Registry...

        Namely, allowing any programmer to use it as their personal playground. That was part of why there were so many registry issues in versions of Windows up to XP and why reinstalling Windows XP was the smart thing to do every 6 - 8 months...

        With Vista, Microsoft stopped apps from using the registry as a space to leave messages between different modules. Mind you, Microsoft published a best practices guide for XP that strongly suggested not using the registry for this sort of thing - not that many programmers ever bothered to listen let alone follow those guidelines. That's why so many apps needed to be run as Admin.

        @Mr. Dee
        Getting rid of the registry would mean going back all the way to Windows 3.x - and all of the .INI files that littered the hard drive. Somehow that doesn't make a lot of sense.
    • There are 600 million XP users out there...

      @Mr. Dee That's a lot of potential converts to Windows 8!
      • Windows 7 vs Windows 8 which is more proven

        @MSFTWorshipper I believe it will be the lynch pin that gets a lot of users to move off the 10 year old OS, at the same time, Windows 7 will likely be the first choice over Windows 8 in the enterprise, since a lot of companies will consider it as a proven product over what will be seen as the too new to use Windows. I am sure a lot of companies are just starting their pilots for Windows 7 this years, some will probably be still doing rolling outs up to 2014. Considering that business editions (Pro/Enterprise) get support until 2020.
        Mr. Dee
    • RE: Microsoft's Ballmer says next-gen Windows systems due in 2012

      @Mr. Dee

      W8 probably won't be an OS that 7 users will upgrade to, but I think that is fine from MS's perspective. They don't need everyone to upgrade for it to work, they just need to make sure people don't jump to Apple.

      The interesting thing with W8 will be how well it will play on tablets with the Metro UI.
    • RE: Microsoft's Ballmer says next-gen Windows systems due in 2012

      I have to agree that Windows 8 (or whatever) can be a tough sell for satisfied W7 users; I eagerly participated in the W7 public beta (dual-boot of course), liked what I saw, and shelled out for 2 copies of the early offer of $50 each, and Vista went away.

      Do I feel like going thru that again for W8, even at a relative-bargain price?

      The only continuing nit I have with W7 is occasional sleep/resume problems, never been able to diagnose that no matter how much I tried.
      • RE: Microsoft's Ballmer says next-gen Windows systems due in 2012

        @ProfQuill Yea, I went with beta -> product, it is a good release. Again, will I want to go through a Windows 8 cycle, well it depends upon what's on the table. Go figure, I've had my speakers since 1995 and here I replace my desktop every two years. I guess speaker quality is one thing, computers, well, today's desktop is tomorrow's Linux server.

        There is an Apple store right across the street from my house, but I've always enjoyed knowing what all my hardware is and what it can do. Black box stuff creeps me out a little.
    • For desktop systems, yes.

      @Mr. Dee
      I suspect that the most significant aspects of Windows 8 will be for tablets and slates, and bringing desktop features to non-Intel architectures. I also think the smart play for Microsoft would be to purge the vestiges of Win32 from Windows 8, go to .NET and Silverlight entirely, and keep Windows 7 on the market for those needing Win32 compatibility. XP's life was extended for those needing back compatibility, so why not Windows 7?

      It will be interesting to see the situation that develops for XP users when the balloon goes up on IPv4.
      Lester Young
    • RE: Microsoft's Ballmer says next-gen Windows systems due in 2012

      @Mr. Dee
      I upgraded from vista to windows 7. I will not make the change to 8; not because I do not like change but because I have never dealt with a company that changes for change sake. Why not an upgrade. I wasted my dollars for vista x2 before 7 and refuse to give this greedy company one cent more!!
      • Seriously...

        You say you upgraded from Vista to Windows 7 and you didn't see ANY improvement? What have you been smokin'?
  • RE: Microsoft's Ballmer says next-gen Windows systems due in 2012

    They have got to get pricing down. $90 starting price for an upgrade is too high. i think $50 across the board would be perfect. Even get rid of these stupid micromanaged editions. I would love bitlocker on all my machines. why do I need Pro or higher to backup to a NAS using the build in backup tool?

    I'm more interested in what Win 8 brings to the Tablet table. I've wanted Tablet PCs forever, and even owned a few, but they are too costly to catch on, hince why nothing is written for touch.