Microsoft leader Steve Ballmer announced that the next version of his company’s operating system -- Windows 8 -- will be available in 2012.
At the Microsoft Developer Forum in Tokyo on Monday, Ballmer said the software giant is hard at work producing Windows 8, which is also expected to hit tablet computers, PC Magazine reports.
Ballmer has yet to comment on rumors regarding the features of the new OS.
But he did hint that "there will be a day in the future where it will be hard to distinguish a phone from a slate, from a PC.”
A pre-release version of Microsoft's next operating system reportedly leaked onto the Internet in early April, leading to an explosion of speculation among Microsoft watchers about what new versions and features the company was developing.
Chief among the features pinpointed was the widespread implementation of the Ribbon interface, a dynamic, icon-filled replacement for traditional menus unveiled with Microsoft Office 2007. Though controversial, the interface garnered rave reviews and became a love-it-or-leave-it reason to upgrade to the latest productivity suite.
Leaked Windows 8 screenshots emerged as well, images that suggest Microsoft intends to add the Ribbon interface to the basic operating system itself, wrote enthusiasts Rafael Rivera and Paul Thurrott at the time
"In Windows 8, Ribbon usage is accelerating again, and Microsoft’s next major OS will include this UI in the most visible of all possible places, Windows Explorer," the pair blogged on the site Within Windows.
They called the new interface "only half-finished and, frankly, of dubious value," arguing that the inconsistent implementation of the new look and feel suggest it is controversial within Microsoft, as well.