[Updated below with Microsoft’s statement on Ballmer’s comments]

Two separate developments today suggest that Microsoft may be gearing up to share more information about Windows 8, or whatever the company ends up calling the next version of its PC operating system.

First, as noted by Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said for the first time that “the next generation of Windows systems” will come out next year — effectively breaking the company’s silence on the timing.

“[A]s 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,” said Ballmer during a speech in Japan.

Yep, he also used phrase Windows 8 — something else the company has been careful to avoid.

[Update: Microsoft offers this statement on Ballmer’s comments: “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.”]

Second, there’s the news that Windows chief Steven Sinofsky has just been added to next week’s D conference “to talk about the future of Windows in the era of all kinds of new devices and the cloud.” Conference co-host Kara Swisher has the details at the AllThingsD.com blog.

Microsoft isn’t saying anything more about what Sinofsky will say, or show, but the last-minute addition suggests something interesting is up. Atop the list of obvious questions is how the next version of Windows will help device makers create credible rivals to the iPad, whether that’s on x86 or ARM architectures.

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  • Brent

    I respect Sinofsky, but I don’t know what he could possibly show that will give MS a chance at taking back leadership in this market, especially if they’re not shipping until next year at the earliest. Too much time has already gone by and this is now a platform battle, not an OS one, with Apple and Google firmly entrenched.

    One thing’s for sure, if he doesn’t impress then that’s another nail in Ballmer’s CEO coffin.

    • DevStar

      Google hasn’t really done anything yet in the tablet space.  Honeycomb probably hasn’t sold much better than Window 7 in tablet form factor.  Only Apple has really run with the tablet form factor.  If Google has a chance, so does Microsoft.  Although its possible, neither does.

  • Guest

    Best of luck to Microsoft in regaining market share! They’ve had excellent success in beating back software competitors like Firefox in the past, so I look forward to what Windows 8 brings.

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