Ballmer lets slip Windows 8 release schedule, backtracks

Something strange happened at the Microsoft Developer Forum in Tokyo, Japan yesterday. According to the official transcript on Microsoft's website, CEO Steve Ballmer said in no uncertain terms that Windows 8 will be out next year. See for yourself:

We're obviously hard at work on the next version of Windows. . . . 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.

A statement like that coming from the company's CEO leaves little open to interpretation. However, after quoting that statement yesterday evening, the folks Business Insider received a surprising retraction from a Microsoft spokesperson:

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.

Now there's a statement that's open to interpretation—Windows 8 may or may not be called Windows 8, apparently, and it may or may not come out next year.

That said, Steve Ballmer is the last person in the world I would expect to make an uninformed statement about the timing of the next major Windows release, especially when giving a keynote speech to a crowd of developers. Either Ballmer was very jet-lagged, or he let slip information that wasn't supposed to be public quite yet, and the company's PR department is merely doing damage control.

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