The next version of Windows will be called Windows 8 and it's coming in 2012, or is it? Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called the new OS Windows 8 on Monday and said it would be coming out next year during a speech at a developer conference in Tokyo, according to a transcript on Microsoft's site. Previously, Microsoft had been careful to refer to Windows 8 only as "the next version of Windows."

Microsoft was soon backtracking from Ballmer's statements saying that Microsoft has not officially announced any "timing or naming for the next version of Windows."

That wasn't all Ballmer had to say about the OS formerly referred to as Windows 8. "We're obviously hard at work on the next version of Windows," Ballmer said. " we look forward to the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year, there's a whole lot more coming ... expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors."

But Microsoft was also quick to back off Ballmer's tip off about upcoming Windows 8 devices. The company says Ballmer may have misspoke and that Microsoft is looking forward to the next generation of Windows 7-based hardware, not Windows 8 gadgets.

Despite what Microsoft is saying officially, most Windows watchers expect to see a public beta version of Windows 8 later this year, with an official release coming in 2012. There's also a rumor that Steven Sinofsky, president of Windows and Windows Live division, will give an early preview of Windows 8 next week during the AllThingsD D9 conference that runs from May 31-June 2, according to WinRumors.