Windows 8 coming for slates, tablets, PCs in 2012

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is on great form over in Japan at the Microsoft Developers Forum.

First up, he got the Windows Phone 7 fanboys all worked up promising 500 new features for the platform, and now he's got the PC world all a flutter by stating that the boffins at Redmond are hard at work on Windows 8, which will land next year.

"We're obviously hard at work on the next version of Windows," he said.

"Windows 7 PCs will sell over 350 million units this year. We've done a lot in Windows 7 to improve customer satisfaction. We have a brand new user interface. We've added touch, and ink, and speech.

"And yet, as 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."

Ooh, how exciting. Could this really be the first iteration of Windows that is designed from the drawing board upwards with different devices in mind? We know that Windows 7 tablets are ubiquitous now but come on, have you ever actually used one? It's hardly a pleasurable experience.

Ballmer didn't go into any great detail regarding what would be on board with Windows 8, but he did hint at a few key features that Microsoft wants to bring to the table.

He talked about a "natural user interface" and said: "this is the notion that we really want to speak, wave and gesture, touch and mark on our computing devices.

"We want smart devices to work the way we work, to recognize us and our actions. Speech recognition, vision, handwriting recognition, touch interfaces, these are all part of the theme."

He also talked about "natural language" stating that this meant "voice, and vision, and touch".

"We're really asking ourselves the question, can we let you control your computing environment by expressing intent instead of specific commands," he said.

"Today on a PC, it's file open, blah, blah, blah, respond, reply, forward. I can't just say to my device, get me ready for my trip to Tokyo.

"With natural language, whether it's in English, or Japanese, or any one of a number of other languages, you should be able to command the computer with your intent, and have it take action."

Exciting times indeed then, with Windows 8 sounding as if it could be a real revolution rather than an evolution of previous platforms.

What do you guys think - is Windows 8 going to be as exciting as Ballmer is hinting at, or is it just another XP upgrade? Give us your thoughts below.