Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer appeared on stage at his company's Developer Forum in Tokyo, Japan, on Monday and seemed to spontaneously spurt out a few interesting details about the next version of Windows, called Windows 8 internally, and the next version of Windows Phone 7, known currently as "Mango." The Windows 8 revelations are particularly interesting, coming as they do just days after Microsoft issued a stern warning to its partner Intel, in which it said the microprocessor giant made "factually inaccurate and unfortunately misleading" about the next Windows version.
Ballmer's comments will be a bit more difficult to deny, coming as they do from the mouth of the CEO.
"We're obviously hard at work on the next version of Windows," he said. "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."
Two parts of this statement stand out. First, Ballmer actually refers to the next version of Windows, twice, as Windows 8. That's actually a no-no at the software giant, and while I've heard numerous Microsofties use the term "Windows 8" by mistake, the official word is that it's just called "the next version of Windows," "the next generation of Windows," or "the next release of Windows."
Second, Ballmer confirmed a schedule that I and others have reported for years—that Microsoft intends to ship Windows 8 next year, in 2012. This is the first time any Microsoft executive has ever confirmed this time frame publicly.
As ironclad as these comments might seem, Microsoft still found a way to semi-deny them. "It appears there was a misstatement," a Microsoft representative told ZD's Mary Jo Foley. "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."
(In a related note, Microsoft President Steven Sinofsky, the man most directly responsible for "the next version of Windows," will be appearing at the All Things D conference next week. As with a similar pre-release appearance around Windows 7, my expectation is that Microsoft will show off some specific Windows 8 feature, perhaps something around Kinect sensor compatibility, facial recognition, and voice control.)
But back to Ballmer. He also had some very interesting comments about Windows Phone "Mango," which will most likely be marketed as Windows Phone 7.5 when it is made available later this year.
"We came to market with Windows Phone about a year later than I wish we had, shame on us," he said. "But, we're moving forward very actively. We launched Windows Phones last November. We've done a set of upgrades. We have a release that will come to market later this year in Japan. Not only is it a new release that is now much more global, but we've added over 500 new features to Windows Phone."
Windows Phone isn't yet available in Japan, and later Ballmer comments suggested that part of a "Mango" press conference that is happening today (Tuesday) in New York City would involve detailing new phones and international availability. But the revelation of "500 new features" in Mango is both fantastical and unexpected. Could Windows Phone "Mango" possibly have 500 new features?
Stay tuned. I'll be covering that Mango press conference, live from New York, on my Windows Phone Secrets blog.