Bill Gates has told journalists that Microsoft's next OS could arrive sooner than anticipated.

Speaking at the Inter-American Development Bank, Microsoft's big boss told the audience: "Sometime in the next year or so we will have a new version".

The report on CNet.com from the speech does not, however, make it clear whether Gates was referring to the full commercial launch of the new operating system or merely a beta version.

It has already been widely reported that a test version of Windows 7 was sent to the US government last month.

Microsoft had previously implied that Windows 7 would launch 3 years after the 2007 release of Vista.

While Gates did not reveal any details of what features we can expect from Windows 7, he did say: "I'm super-enthused about what it will do in lots of ways".