If the hints given out by a senior Microsoft executive during a speech on Wednesday prove correct, Windows 8 may be on store shelves in time for 2012's holiday shopping season.
Speaking at an event at Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Silicon Valley campus, Dan'l Lewin, corporate vice president for strategic and emerging business development, reportedly told the audience just that in almost as many words.
"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 said, according to news site TechRadar.
In fact, that was the pattern that Microsoft followed when it developed and released Windows 7.
The company gave out early -- so-called "pre-beta" -- versions of Windows 7 to hardware and software developers at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference (PDC) and Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), both held in Los Angeles in the early fall of 2008.
Indeed, Microsoft is currently planning to hold a newly inaugurated developers conference it has dubbed Build in Anaheim, Calif. in September.
Steven Sinofsky, president of the company's Windows Division, presented the first comprehensive showing of Windows 8 during the All Things Digital 9 (D9) conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., earlier this month.
Similarly, beta testing of Windows 7 began a few months later at the Consumer Electronics Show 2009 in early January and the code was released to manufacturing in late July of that year. Windows 7 shipped right in time for the 2009 holiday season, and quickly became the best selling version of Windows ever, with some 350 million licenses sold by late April 2011 -- the 18th month anniversary of its commercial launch on Oct. 22, 2009.
If Lewin is right the future may be a rosy one. CEO Steve Ballmer has been quoted as saying that Windows 8 is Microsoft's most risky product bet ever.
However, woe to Microsoft should that hinted-at schedule slip as it did for Windows Vista -- Windows 7's ill-fated predecessor, which missed the 2006 holiday sales season and instead launched two months later in late January 2007.
The question is, can Sinofsky and company pull the rabbit out of the hat twice in a row -- and on time?
A Microsoft spokesperson said the company declined to comment.