Report: Microsoft to show tablet version of Windows 8 next week

Bloomberg is adding fuel to the rumor fires claiming that Microsoft may show off the tablet version of Windows 8 next week at the AllThingsD conference. Here's what to watch for, if and when that happens.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Bloomberg is adding fuel to the rumor fires claiming that Microsoft may show off the tablet version of Windows 8 next week at the AllThingsD conference. If and when that happens, here's what to watch for.

Steven Sinofsky, the President of Microsoft's Windows client division, is slated to take the stage during the three-day confab, which kicks off on May 29. Ever since Sinofsky's appearance at the show was confirmed earlier this week, there's been talk that he'd show off an updated version of Windows 8 there.

In spite of Microsoft's vague claims about the accuracy of recent Windows 8 information that has leaked and been announced (by both Microsoft partners and Microsoft's own CEO), it is widely believed that there will be different user interfaces on different versions of the operating system. The version tailored to run on ARM-based tablets is expected to sport a touch-centric user interface, which has been known both as MoSH (modern shell) and the "Immersive" user interface.

As WithinWindows' Rafael Rivera noted in April, the immersive UI seems to be "a Windows Phone-inspired, Metro-like, tiles-based user interface as an alternative to the more mainstream Aero and Aero Lite (formerly Aero Basic) UIs." I've also discussed the significance of the "immersive" concept. The immersive UI is expected to be the primary (if not sole) interface for Windows 8 tablets and slates. The Aero interface is expected to be more of a classic Windows Shell and will be the UI for Windows 8 desktops and non-touch-centric Windows PCs.

With Sinofsky being Sinofsky, I'm doubtful that we'll hear him refer to anything as "Windows 8" next week at the AllThingsD show. (He prefers to call the next version of Windows "Windows Next.") I'm also highly doubtful he'll let anyone see a build number or anything that indicates how far along Microsoft is with the development of Windows 8. (I'm hearing Microsoft is fairly well along with Milestone 3, and that June 2011 may mark the end-of-development for that internal milestone build.)

If Sinofsky decides to show Windows 8 next week -- and don't let anyone kid you, it's his decision as to whether he does or not -- he'll do so to show the naysayers that Microsoft isn't totally clueless about slates/tablets.

I've heard Microsoft may share more details about Windows 8/Windows Next at the company's upcoming Worldwide Partner Conference in mid-July in Los Angeles. That may seem like a strange venue, but Microsoft's resellers are its salesforce. And the keynote line-up for the WPC event includes a disproportionate number of Microsoft OEM (original equipment manufacturer) execs. The WPC is the place Microsoft often shares its roadmaps with its partners and highlights new PCs and devices that it wants them to go out and sell.

The real launch pad for Windows 8 remains the company's mid-September developers conference, which may or may not ultimately be named as the Windows Developer Conference (WDC). Microsoft is widely believed to be planning to deliver to testers a first preview or beta of Windows 8 in conjunction with that conference. Hey, maybe we'll even hear about the Jupiter app model/platform and Visual Studio 2012 at that time. The upcoming devcon is slated for September 13 to 16 in Anaheim, Calif.

While DigiTimes reported earlier this week that Microsoft and its partners are planning to get Windows 8 on ARM out before the end of calendar 2011, I'm still hearing and believing that Microsoft isn't going to deliver certain versions of Windows 8 ahead of others. My contacts continue to believe that Microsoft will get the next version of Windows out in 2012, just like Ballmer said this week (in spite of a weak attempt to change the meaning of his original statements).

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