Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer has confirmed that the company's next-generation systems will be out in 2012 and, in doing so, referred to the software as "Windows 8" for the first time.

Speaking at developers' conference in Tokyo, Japan on Monday, Ballmer confirmed that the successor to the successful Windows 7 platform will arrive next year for PCs, tablets and slates.

So far Microsoft has been careful not to refer to the forthcoming operating system as Windows 8 in any official capacity, but word from the big boss man leaves us in no doubt as to what it will be called.

More to come

He told developers: "We're obviously hard at work on the next version of Windows. 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."

It'll be interesting to see what Ballmer could mean by tablets and slates? Is a distinction being made there? Anyway, the countdown to Windows 8 is on.