Microsoft is about to offer an early glimpse of the next version of Windows on a tablet, according to a new report.
Speaking to three unnamed people "with knowledge of the company's plans," Bloomberg reported May 26 that Microsoft will demonstrate how the next version of Windows will run on an Nvidia Tegra chip, itself based on the ARM architecture that underpins most of today's smartphone and tablet processors.
In a recent speech to the Microsoft Developer Forum in Tokyo, CEO Steve Ballmer seemed to confirm that Windows 8 will make its debut in 2012, and appear on a variety of form factors, including tablets and PCs.
"As we look forward to the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year, there's a whole lot more coming," he told the audience, according to a transcript published on Microsoft's Website. "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."
Just as quickly, though, Microsoft seemed anxious to tamp down on Ballmer's comments. "It appears there was a misstatement," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in a statement circulated to media. "To date, we have yet to formally announce any timing or naming for the next version of Windows."
Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live division, will appear at the ninth D:All Things Digital conference scheduled to kick off May 31 in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. It's not inconceivable that he could demonstrate some features of the next version of Windows at the event; but coming so soon after Microsoft's strident official denials, it would also give more astute company observers a serious case of mental whiplash.
Whatever the immediate situation, Microsoft has a good reason to keep the next version of Windows under wraps for the time being. Windows 7 sales continue to fuel a healthy portion of the company's revenue. If businesses and consumers believe yet another version of Windows is in the pipeline for release sometime next year, they might shy away from upgrading to Windows 7-something that Microsoft would dearly like to avoid.
Sinofsky announced during this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that the next-generation platform will support SoC (system-on-a-chip) architecture, in particular ARM-based systems from partners such as Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instruments. That would give Microsoft the ability to port the next Windows onto tablets and other mobile form factors powered by ARM offerings.
Any other details have remained firmly under wraps. In April, bloggers Rafael Rivera and Paul Thurrott dissected various features of what they called an early operating-system build on Rivera's Within Windows blog. According to those postings, the next version of Windows could incorporate an Office-style ribbon interface into Windows Explorer, complete with tools for viewing libraries and manipulating images. The bloggers also included a screenshot of an early device-unlock window, done in the "Metro" design style already present in Windows Phone-and perhaps an early hint of how "Windows 8" will appear on mobile form factors.