Evidence mounts for a Windows 8 release in 2012

Steve Ballmer's claims of a 2012 launch for Windows 8 could ring true, according to comments made by Microsoft's corporate vice president Dan'l Lewin.

Lewin, corporate vice president for strategic and emerging business development, has suggested a timescale for the Windows 8 launch process - the first version of Windows to support the ARM architecture - that would see the new operating system released towards the end of 2012.

TechRadar reports that Lewin spoke at his company's LAUNCH event for start-ups and let slip a few informed guesses as to Microsoft's plans for Windows 8. "If you look at the crystal ball and just say what happened in the past is a reasonable indicator of what our forward looking timelines will be and just speculate," Lewin circuitously explained. "We've made the point about having a developer conference later this year, and then typically we enter a beta phase, and then in 12 months we're in the market. So, let's make that assumption."

Lewin's comments are far from a firm commitment to a 2012 launch but mesh nicely with claims from Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer, made at the Microsoft Developer Forum in Tokyo. "As we look forward to the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year, there's a whole lot more coming," Ballmer said at the time.

While Ballmer's comments were claimed to be a "misstatement" by a Microsoft spokesperson after the event, many saw the slip as proof that Windows 8 would be shipping some time in 2012.

Windows 8 promises to be a landmark release for the software giant: as the first mainstream Windows release to support the ARM architecture, it looks set to open up a wide range of new possibilities in low-power and portable devices. Demonstration products have already been sighted, and companies like Qualcomm are openly rubbing their hands at the thought of getting a foot in the door of the lucrative laptop market.

It's also a risky move for Microsoft: with a user interface inspired by the 'Metro' UI on Windows Phone 7, demonstrations of the platform in use have already elicited a negative response from users. Microsoft's concentration on breaking Android's hold on the tablet market could, it seems, spell disaster for the company's near-monopoly on the desktop.