Microsoft's development cycles often stretch beyond initial estimates
Microsoft boss Bill Gates has dropped a hint about the next version of Windows.
He said Windows 7 could be released "sometime in the next year or so" during a Q&A session at a meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank.
After the event a Microsoft spokeswoman said the new version was scheduled for 2010 - three years after the January 2007 release of Vista for consumers.
But industry experts warned that Microsoft's estimates about delivery dates have often proved optimistic.
Mr Gates made his comments in response to a question from the audience gathered to hear him talk about corporate philanthropy during IADB's annual meeting.
Said Mr Gates: "That'll be sometime in the next year or so that we'll have a new version."
He added: "I'm super-enthused about what it will do in lots of ways." However, Mr Gates did not detail what changes or novel features are being lined up to appear in Windows 7.
Microsoft has started the developer program for Windows 7 and there are reports that a test version, of it, called Milestone 1, have been given to some of the software giant's biggest customers.
Afterwards a spokesperson for the company said Mr Gates was talking about pre-release versions of Windows and not the finished product.
In an analysis of the development history of Windows XP and Vista, news site Ars Technica said that both took at least a year to get from final test version to the one that went on sale.
"We're likely closer to two years away from a release, not one," wrote Ken Fisher from Ars Technica.