Microsoft is making progress in prepping the next version of its ubiquitous Windows operating system, with new architecture promising a departure from its PC centric roots, and positiong the company to capitalize on new emerging form factors.

Whether called Windows 8 or Windows Next, analysts this week said they believe a beta version would be available as early as September 15.

It will also feature some changes allowing it to go beyond just personal computers but into the world of Tablets -- currently dominated by Apple's iOS and the iPad.

As we look forward to the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year, there's a whole lot more coming, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told developers in Tokyo recently. As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors.

Indeed, Microsoft also gave clues through out the year of its intentions to target tablets, nothing that the new software will support a new kind of hardware, system-on-a-Chip (SoC) architectures, that will power the next generation of devices.

The notable SoC leaders now are UK based ARM holdings which provide the blue-prints for processors used in most cell phones, tablets, and other low-powered devices.

Companies building chips with ARM as their foundations include Apple. Nvidia and Motorola to name a few.

The OS will also take design cues from its Windows 7 phones which prove to be more friendly for mobile form-factors.

The company has repeatedly stated that '24-36 months' between releases is the appropriate timeframe to consider for the launch of the next Windows operating system, says Citigroup's Walter Pritchard.

With Windows 7 having been released in October 2009, a strict mapping of the '24-36 month' timeline would suggest a release as early as October 2011 and as late as October 2012 release.

Upon the launch of the iPad2, Apple CEO Steve Jobs declared the tablet to be one of its many success in the post-PC era and sparked off a tablet frenzy that other manufacturers are trying to cash-in on.

From the architectural and usage changes of the Windows 8, it appears Microsoft plans to be very much a part of that post-PC era.