For months now Microsoft staff have resolutely refused to refer to the next version of Windows as “Windows 8″. Instead it’s been a hard and fast rule at the company that it was only ever to be called “Windows Next”. Windows chief and Microsoft Senior Vice-President Steven Sinofsky wouldn’t even go that far, only ever calling it “the next version of Windows”. Then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made a slip up at a recent developer conference in Japan when he told delegates that Windows 8 will be out next year. This was the first time that anybody in the company had officially referred to their next generation desktop operating system by that name. Sinofsky’s department issued a clarification very shortly afterwards, saying “It appears there was a misstatement. To date, we have yet to formally announce any timing or naming for the next version of Windows.” Ballmer is well known for putting his foot in it occasionally, but nobody really minds (except perhaps Steven Sinofsky). This event seems to have triggered a wholesale policy change within the company though as Microsoft staff are now officially allowed to refer to 2012′s impending Windows release as “Windows 8″. There is a caveat with this however. This caveat is that no formal naming has yet taken place for the product and, as a result of this, it is subject to change and the name Windows 8 should in no way be construed as the final name for the operating system. Windows 8 is a code name used to refer to the product internally and nothing else. It’s actually quite comical that given the importance of the product to Microsoft, with the inclusion of tablet functionality, the move to ARM processors and all of the other really major changes taking place with this version, that so much attention has been given to what we’re ultimately going to call it when, let’s be honest, it looks like a no-brainer. So we do now have another name by which everyone, including those within Microsoft, are allowed to refer to the product. It’s new to them even though the rest of the world has been talking about it for almost two years.