Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has confirmed that Windows 8 will be released in 2012 across a variety of platforms, and promised big improvements in the Phone 7 operating system this year.
Speaking at a developer conference in Japan, Ballmer said that Microsoft will reveal new features for its primary operating system over the next year.
Ballmer confirmed that Windows 8 will be available for PCs, tablets and system-on-a-chip devidces, but did not clarify last week's spat with Intel about the Windows versions such platforms will run.
An update to Phone 7 this year will add over 500 improvements, Ballmer said, including allowing the integration of software into the phone's interface by developers.
"We came to market with Phone 7 a year later than I would have liked. Shame on us," he said.
The newly-acquired Skype will also be added to Microsoft's consumer and business product lines, and Ballmer pointed to the fact that Microsoft has started in Estonia as proof that developers should think globally.
The company will add more gesture control to the user interface, based around the firm's Kinect gaming technology. There is still much to be done in this area, Ballmer said, including adding facial recognition, more flexible gesture control and getting the computer to recognise users based on their actions.
Natural language interface work, meanwhile, will change the way users control their computers, making the devices more intuitive and predictive.
"We're asking whether we can let you control the computing environment by expressing intention rather than by specific commands," Ballmer said.
"Now you have to click file, then open, blah blah. I can't just tell a computer to get me ready for trip to Tokyo."
Ballmer explained that Microsoft's work with Bing is yielding great benefits in this area, since search engine technology is all about divining the searcher's intentions from normal language.
Changes in chips and component design over the coming year will enable radical new styles of device, from embedded systems to screens that can be folded up and packed away. This will mean further changes to operating systems to accommodate the new form factors.
Finally, on the adoption of cloud technologies, Ballmer committed Microsoft to making its code more cloud-friendly. Azure will get upgrades approximately every two weeks, he said, and Office is being completely revamped for cloud operations.
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