Developers receive Windows 8 tablets; Windows 8 DP build coming

As the Intel Developer Forum chugs along in San Francisco, Microsoft is hosting the Build developer conference in Anaheim, a few hundred miles south. The software giant is actually broadcasting its keynote live on the Build website right now. Some notable developments have already come out of the event, though.

For one, Microsoft has, as rumored, previewed a Samsung tablet running Windows 8. Neowin reports that the 11.6" device has a 1366x768 display, a 1.6GHz Core i5 processor from Intel, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 64GB solid-state drive, and both Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity. A wireless Bluetooth keyboard is also included. The device reportedly weighs 2 lbs and measures about half an inch in thickness. Its front surface is smooth except for a circular button bearing the Windows logo. (Check out Neowin's gallery for images.)

Clearly, this device is quite different from the ultra-light, ARM-based tablets we've grown used to. Engadget points out that Microsoft will be giving away 5,000 of these units to developers at the show, so this might be more of a development platform engineered for brawn than a representative sample of future Windows 8 tablets. Windows 8, after all, will support ARM processors. Besides, I'd expect Win8 tablet makers who side with x86 to use Atom processors—reaching sufficiently low price points, weights, and battery run times could be difficult with full-featured Intel Core CPUs.

Windows 8's Start screen in the Metro interface. Source: Microsoft.

See our image gallery below for more screenshots.

In addition to the tablets, Microsoft says it plans to release a Windows 8 Developer Preview build later tonight on its new Windows Dev Center website. The pre-release operating system will be available in three variants: "a 64-bit (x64) build with development tools to build apps and a 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) build without development tools." Sample applications will be included, as well. Why no ARM release? Here's the explanation from Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky:

Many are interested in Windows 8 for ARM processors. Everything we showcased today at BUILD also runs on the ARM-based Windows PCs being created by ARM partners and PC manufacturers. Windows 8 running on ARM will ultimately be available with ARM-based hardware that you can purchase. ARM requires a deeper level of integrated engineering between hardware and software, as each ARM device is unique, and Windows allows this uniqueness to shine through. The new development tools enable you to start today to build Metro style applications that will seamlessly run on x86 (32 and 64 bit) or ARM architectures. Even if you use native C/C++ code, these tools will enable Metro style apps to target specific hardware if you choose. As new PCs become available for testing, PC manufacturers will develop seed programs for developers.

In other words, it sounds like the hardware isn't quite ready yet, but Metro applications written for Windows 8 should be portable to the ARM architecture.

The guys at Engadget have nabbed a diagram from the keynote that sheds some light about how Metro applications fit in the grand scheme of things. Programmers will be able to code up Metro apps using JavaScript and CSS, just as Microsoft announced some time ago, but C, C++, C#, and Visual Basic will all be supported, too. Not surprisingly, Metro apps will rely on different application programming interfaces, or APIs, than their Win32 counterparts.

Consumers will have access to third-party Windows 8 software through a Windows app store—which, as Neowin points out, will be conveniently linked right on the Metro Start screen. Just as with Apple's App Store, software will be subject to an approval process meant to weed out security flaws and compliance issues. Neowin says the approval process will involve six steps and take about 18 hours in total.

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