5,000 Microsoft developers get Samsung preview tablets

Preview units use Samsung Series 7 Slate body (See video below)

Microsoft on Tuesday gave the 5,000 developers attending its BUILD conference preview units of a Samsung tablet running a version of the upcoming Windows 8 software.

The device appeared to have the same body as Samsung's Series 7 Slate, introduced in August, which runs a dual-core 1.6GHz Intel i5 chip, has an 11.6-in. screen and weighs slightly less than 2 pounds.

Samsung Series 7 Slate
The Samsung Series 7 Slate.

The Microsoft developer version of that Series 7 device has several added sensors, said Windows President Steven Sinofsky during a presentation at the conference in Anaheim, Calif. Among other things, it has USB and HDMI ports and a microSD slot, and it's equipped with Near Field Communications technology so it can support mobile payment applications.

AT&T also added a 3G-capable radio to the tablet. The developers will get 2GB of monthly data service free of charge for one year.

Sinofsky said the tablet has 4GB of memory and can support 64GB of storage. Developers will get a port for connecting to a keyboard and a digital pen for added input.

The black Samsung tablet was used in demonstrations throughout the initial BUILD keynote address. Earlier, an ARM-based tablet, which appeared to also be a Samsung product, was used for one brief demonstration of Windows 8, but Microsoft didn't offer any preview units featuring ARM processors, nor did it discuss a timeline for running Windows 8 on ARM tablets.

Microsoft said the coming Windows 8 operating system is capable of running on various computing devices, large and small. The preview version is a predecessor to the beta version of Windows 8, and it's several steps away from the version of the operating system that will be generally available, officials said. Most experts expect Windows 8 general availability sometime in 2012.

Windows 8 running on a tablet will be important to Microsoft, which has no tablet product to compete with Apple's iPad or Samsung's Galaxy devices, which run on Google's Android operating system.

After introducing the Samsung tablet and showing off developer tools with Windows 8, Microsoft presented an HTC smartphone running Windows Phone 7.5, also known as Mango. The phone connected to the Windows Live cloud to retrieve emails and photos.

An on-demand version of the BUILD keynote showing the Samsung device will be available later Tuesday at the BUILD website.

At the company's BUILD conference in Anaheim, Calif., Microsoft teased Windows 8 and offered developers the option to download an early release of the OS.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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