Leaked Slides: Windows 8 Coming in 2012?

Even though Microsoft just shipped Windows 7 a month ago, company officials have apparently already started providing a roadmap to some partners that shows the next major release coming in 2012 or thereabouts.

The story evidently emerged from private presentations during last week’s Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles, according to a post on the Microsoft Kitchen blog (formerly known as the UX Evangelist blog) by host Stephen Chapman.

What proof there is comes from a pair of slides posted on Microsoft Kitchen that purport to show the roadmaps for a project codenamed “Windows 8” and for Windows Server — both billed as “major releases.” It’s no accident that the two are on similar schedules, as the two operating systems contain much of the same code.

Additionally, Microsoft has been saying for several years that it is moving to a release schedule that will alternate between major and minor releases of Windows and Windows Server, with minor releases every two years or so, and major releases approximately every three years.

Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 Release 2 (R2) were officially released to consumers on Oct. 22.

“The information all says the same thing I’ve been reporting via other roadmaps: Windows 8 being released around a timeframe of 2012,” Chapman said in his post.

No one wants a repeat of the long, drawn out Windows Vista development process that kept getting pushed back and features stripped out of it in order to finally ship in January 2007. (Windows XP shipped in November 2001, making the release six years later instead of three.)

Under the company’s timetable, Windows 7, coming less than three years after Vista shipped, is generally considered a minor release, meant to fix problems in Vista.

However, Microsoft officials are not talking about future versions — at least not publicly — so far.

“We have nothing to share about ‘Windows 8’ at this point as we are super focused on delivering Windows 7 and sharing the value it offers to our customers,” a company spokesperson said in a statement e-mailed to InternetNews.com.

Details of what may be included in the next major releases of Windows and Windows Server remain unavailable as well.

It is not unusual for Microsoft to provide early briefings on upcoming products to company partners, who need to know far in advance what’s coming. However, the company prefers to keep as much of those briefings from reaching the public too quickly as it can.

The fear is that it might provide some fence-sitters — and there are still plenty of those running Windows XP — with an excuse to put off upgrading to Windows 7. That, in turn, could slow down sales of Windows 7 and new PCs just before the holiday sales season, which is set to ramp up this coming weekend.

Microsoft’s spokesperson said that the company is “looking into” the leak. “I will let you know what we are able to find out about the slides,” the spokesperson added.

Chapman of Microsoft Kitchen, meanwhile, was only willing to provide basic information about how he came by the roadmaps in order to protect his sources, other than to say he found the slides while he as at the PDC.

“As for the slides, they came out of two completely unrelated slide decks from differing Microsoft partners,” he told InternetNews.com in an e-mail.

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