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Ballmer: Windows 8 will debut in 2012

Speaking yesterday in Japan, Microsoft's CEO reveals that the next-generation OS will launch next year along with "Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs." But did he jump the gun?

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said yesterday that Windows 8 will debut in 2012, although the company later called his comments a "misstatement."

Speaking at a developers conference in Japan yesterday, Ballmer touched upon a variety of topics from Windows Phone to search engines to cloud computing. But the CEO emphasized that Microsoft is working on the next version of Windows and spilled a few details about Windows 8 as the company prepares to make the transition from Windows 7.

"We're obviously hard at work on the next version of Windows," Ballmer said, according to a transcript posted on Microsoft's own press site. "Windows 7 PCs will sell over 350 million units this year. We've done a lot in Windows 7 to improve customer satisfaction. We have a brand new user interface. We've added touch, and ink, and speech. 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."

Though Microsoft hasn't quite kept it a secret that it's working on the next version of Windows, the company has yet to officially spill the beans on the exact name and launch date. So this marked the first confirmation at the highest ranks. Ballmer also noted Microsoft's efforts to launch Windows 8 across a variety of platforms from PCs to mobile devices.

However, it seems Ballmer may jumped the gun by publicly uttering the name and ship year for Windows 8. Following his comments, Microsoft released an official statement saying that its CEO apparently misspoke.

"It appears there was a misstatement," Microsoft said in a statement released to CNET. "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."

This isn't the first time Microsoft's feathers have been ruffled over comments specific to the next version of Windows. Intel VP Renee James managed to upset the company last week when she said that Microsoft would release multiple versions of Windows 8 designed for Intel-based PCs as well as ARM-based mobile devices.

Though it may not debut until next year, Windows 8 could actually make its first stage appearance at next week's All Things Digital D9 conference in California. AllThingsD's Kara Swisher has confirmed that the president of Microsoft's Windows division, Steven Sinofsky, will be one of the speakers.

Citing a source familiar with Microsoft's plans, tech site WinRumors says Microsoft plans to demo its Windows 8 tablet interface at D9, considered especially likely since the folks in Redmond traditionally tend to unveil new technologies at the annual All Things Digital conference.