Windows chief Steven Sinofsky has just been confirmed to appear at the ninth D: AllThingsDigital conference next week, and the smart odds are that he'll use the high-profile event to give the public its first view of Windows 8, the next version of Microsoft's operating system.

Microsoft is doing a lot of work to optimize Windows 8 for tablets, including porting it to the ARM processors used in most tablets (and smartphones) today, and creating a touch user interface that has started to leak out in some screenshots.

The timing matches what a source told us earlier this year -- that Windows 8 would be shown to the public before the end of Microsoft's fiscal year on June 30 -- and Microsoft has debuted other products like the Surface computer at D in past years.

Based on past Windows release cycles, the mainline version of Windows 8 probably won't ship until late 2012 at the earliest. But some reports, including a leaked roadmap from Dell, have suggested that Microsoft is trying to ship the tablet version earlier -- perhaps as soon as this year.

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