Microsoft Windows 8 may be coming as early as 2012, based on a recent rash of comments and hints dropped by Microsoft personnel in official capacity and informal context.
Some are taking heart from a roadmap Microsoft was supposedly showing off during its recent Professional Developer's Conference (PDC), according to electronista. The map (click to enlarge it for a closer look) refers specifically to Windows Server products, but suggests the plan would extend to Windows desktop systems as well.
Microsoft Speeds Up
According to the roadmap, Microsoft is trying to get into a regular pace of releasing major Windows upgrades every three or four years, with a significant update happening every two.
Windows 8 by 2012 is an admirable goal, but product delays seem inevitable when it comes to getting a new iteration of Windows out the door. Microsoft had a six-year gap between the major release of Windows XP in 2001 and then Windows Vista in 2007. Vista was originally scheduled for 2006, but Microsoft was forced to push Vista's release to 2007. Then, after a poor reception for Vista, Windows 7 was rushed out to stores less than two years later. Microsoft may not want to have another six-year gap between OS releases, but it also needs to avoid another Vista-sized flop. Nevertheless, it's a good bet that a Windows 8 release candidate will be available as early as 2011.
As a side note, the roadmap also confirms that Windows 7 was considered a release update to Vista, while Windows 8 would be a major release and therefore a significant upgrade from Windows 7.
Windows 8 Plans
Microsoft has been looking forward to the next iteration of its operating system, in at least a limited fashion, since early October, when job listings looking for Windows 8 program managers came to light.
There have also been a rumor that Windows 8 would boast 128-bit architecture. That rumor came to light after Microsoft employee Robert Morgan disclosed company information on his LinkedIn profile. Morgan said he was working on "research and development projects including 128-bit architecture compatibility with the Windows 8 kernel and Windows 9 project plan."
Windows 8 Predictions
With Windows 7 being a done deal since July, some pundits have been busy making up wish lists and predictions for Windows 8. InfoWorld's Randall Kennedy predicts that Win 8 will be the end of the 32-bit operating system--all the more likely if a 128-bit version is in the works. Computerworld's Preston Galla wants a more simplified version of Windows Media Center and easier ways to network Windows, Mac OS X and Linux machines. Kennedy is also big on Live Mesh integration for Windows 8. Live Mesh is a Microsoft cloud-based service that allows you to sync documents across multiple computers, as well as access your files through an online desktop.
Speaking of the cloud, it will be interesting to see how pervasive online computing is among home users by 2012. By that time, Google's Chrome OS will have been available for a year or two, and it should be clearer how effective or ineffective it is to use a Web-only operating system. Will the success or failure of Chrome OS influence Windows 8? I'm looking forward to finding out.