5,000 Microsoft developers get Samsung preview tablets

Preview units use Samsung Series 7 Slate body

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 1.6 GHz Intel i5 chip, has an 11.6-in. screen and weighs slightly less than 2 pounds.

The Microsoft developer version has several added sensors to that Series 7 device, according to Windows President Steven Sinofsky during a presentation at the conference in Anaheim, Calif. Among them, it features Near-Field Communications for mobile payments, USB and HDMI ports and a microSD slot.

AT&T also added a 3G-capable radio to the tablet. The developers will get one year year of free data access allowing up to 2GB of service a month for a 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. Earlier, an ARM-based tablet, which appeared to also be a Samsung tablet, was used for one brief demonstration of Windows 8, but Microsoft didn't offer any preview units running ARM or discuss any timeline for running tablets on ARM.

Microsoft described the coming Windows 8 operating system as capable of running on various computing devices, large and small. The preview version is prior to the Windows 8 beta version, and several steps away from Windows 8 general availability, 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 line of tablets running on the Android OS.

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

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

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 e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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