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Ballmer Talks 'Windows 8'

"Windows 8" is out, or at least the phrase got uttered by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer today in Japan.

Microsoft's top executives have been careful not to use the obvious Windows 8 term, which is widely expected to be the name of the company's next-generation operating system. Several media outlets have already received a denial from Microsoft, claiming that the Windows 8 mention and schedule described by Ballmer was a "misstatement."

Ballmer, speaking at the Microsoft Developer Forum in Tokyo, suggested that Microsoft's next operating system after Windows 7 will appear sometime in 2012. He also pointed to Windows 8 running 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 bland "Windows Next" description, which was first announced at the Computer Electronics Show 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 the Computer Electronics Show in January, 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. A software development kit for Mango likely will be announced on Tuesday.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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