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.