Microsoft supremo Bill Gates has hinted that the next major version of Windows – Windows 7, which will succeed the lacklustre Vista – could be available as early as next year.

Microsoft has continually said that Windows 7 will only be available "roughly three years from Vista's January 2007 debut", or 2010, but reports that Gates made reference to a new availability date while addressing the Inter-American Development Bank in Miami on Friday.
The website says that, responding to a question on Vista, Gates said: "Sometime in the next year or so we will have a new version." And, referring to Windows 7, he added: "I'm super-enthused about what it will do in lots of ways."
Spurred on by the slow acceptance of Vista, particularly within corporate customers, speculation has been rife about Windows 7 and its availability. So far, Microsoft has been coy about the new operating system saying only that it will ship in consumer and business versions, and on both 32-bit and 64-bit platforms. was also circumspect about Gates' latest comments, saying it was unclear whether he was "referring to early testing of Windows 7 coming within the year as opposed to a widespread release or debut."
"An early test geared toward developers would be conceivable," it says. "The company has repeatedly said that it will accelerate the development of new Windows versions, largely as a response to Vista's roughly five year gestation period."