Microsoft has finally confirmed technology's worst kept-secret, there will be a new version of the Windows operating system, and it'll be known as Windows 8.

The operating system was previewed for the first time at its annual Build developer conference, which took place in California, this week. Steve Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows division, described the operating system as a "reimagining of Windows from the chipset to the experience".

UPDATE: Microsoft launched the Consumer Preview of Windows 8 at the Mobile World Congress tradeshow in Barcelona (February 29, 2012).

The tech giant spilled some secrets on the look and functions of Windows 8, and in a bid to avoid even made the Windows 8 Developer Preview available to all web users, in a bid to avoid the debacle seen with Windows 7 when the developer preview was leaked online. However, it failed to answer the big questions on everyone's lips – when is it going to be made available to the public.

See also: Microsoft Windows 8 review

As far back as 2009, Microsoft Kitchen, a blog with the tagline 'Serving up some seriously tasty Microsoft', claimed roadmaps that had apparently been revealed at Microsoft’s Professional Developers' Conference (PDC) indicated the opersating system would land in 2012.

While, in October 2010, Winrumours spotted a blog on Microsoft’s Dutch site that said: "Microsoft is on course for the next version of Windows. But it will take about two years before 'Windows 8' is on the market".

In May this year, that release date was given even more credibility by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer when he said “the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year” at a developer's conference in Japan.

A 2012 release would be consistent with previous Microsoft pledges to release a new desktop operating system every three years. Windows 7 was released in October 2009. However, when in 2012 remains to be seen.

Microsoft corporate vice president Dan'l Lewin suggested the OS would be released in Autumn 2012.

"We will be in market - if you look at the crystal ball and just say what happened in the past is a reasonable indicator of what our forward looking timelines will be and just speculate - 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," he said at the LAUNCH event, which took place at Microsoft's Silicon Valley resort, in June this year.

Meanwhile, Mary Jane-Foley from ZDNet claims a to have "received new information from a trusted source that Microsoft is actually on track to release to manufacturing all Windows 8 versions by April 2012". However, she didn't speculate on when the operating system would be made available to consumers.

However, according to the Telegraph unnamed analysts believe Microsoft will aim for the back-to-school season in July next year or the following Christmas at the latest.

NEXT PAGE: New features

Microsoft has finally confirmed technology's worst kept-secret, there will be a new version of the Windows operating system, and it'll be known as Windows 8. Well that's its code name for now at least anyway. We take a look at just when the operating system could be landing.

New features

Microsoft revealed Windows 8 features a dual interface aimed at both PC and tablet users. By opting for Metro, users will be presented with a tile-based user interface, based on the interface seen in Windows Phone. This series of tiles that can contain live data, application screens, communications screens, and more. When clicked or tapped, the tile opens the content or app in its own window.  However, if users press the Desktop toile, an interface which looks more like Windows 7 will be displayed.

For the first time, the Windows operating system also benefits from an app store, known as the Windows Store, where users can obtain apps for Metro. Just like Apple, the tech giant revealed it will approve or reject apps submitted to the store before users can get their hands on them.

Windows Explorer, the operating system’s built-in file manager has also been given an overhaul and has become ‘ribbonised’ to look similar what debuted in Office 2007, was tweaked in Office 2010 and showed up in some applications bundled with Windows 7, notably the bare-bones Paint program.

Windows 8 also offers the ability to have two apps running alongside each other, although one app occupies the majority of the screen.

“We took everything that was really great about Windows 7 and we made it even better in Windows 8,” Sinofsky said.

Furthermore, Microsoft claims a PC running the new operating system will take less than 10 seconds go from powered down to the start screen. The speedy boot is thanks to a new hybrid system that mixes processes used in cold boots and hibernation mode. “We designed Windows 8 so that you shouldn't have to boot all that often (and we are always going to work on reducing the number of required restarts due to patching running code). But when you do boot we want it to be as fast as possible,” Sinofsky said in a blog detailing the function.

 PC requirements

Microsoft has previously confirmed the system requirements for Windows 8 will be the same as those needed to run Windows 7 .
"In both of our Windows 8 previews, we talked about continuing on with the important trend that we started with Windows 7, keeping system requirements either flat or reducing them over time," Window's corporate vice-president, Tami Reller said.
"Windows 8 will be able to run on a wide range of machines because it will have the same requirements or lower."

The existing minimum requirements for Windows 7 include a 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of spare hard disk space and DirectX 9 graphics. These are the same minimum requirements for the operating system's predecessor, Windows Vista. Potentially, this means those with machines running Vista could be able to run Windows 8, although Microsoft has not yet confirmed this.

Windows 8 on ARM

Microsoft confirmed at the start of the year, Windows 8 will run on devices that feature ARM processors, such as smartphone smartphones and existing Android and Apple tablets.
“ARM requires a deeper level of integrated engineering between hardware and software, as each ARM device is unique, and Windows allows this uniqueness to shine through,” said Sinofsky.

Microsoft said that existing apps will have to be redesigned for Metro to run on ARM devices with Windows 8.