As rumor sites predicted, Tuesday Microsoft told attendees at its Build developers conference that they will be going home this week with prototype tablet computers from Samsung running the first technical preview of Windows 8.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) had been expected to release the Windows 8 technical preview at its sold out Build conference in Anaheim, which started Tuesday.
The debut of the technical preview was widely anticipated — after all, at a similar conference three years ago, the company had distributed the first tech preview of Windows 7.
However, rumors began circulating last week that the Windows 8 preview would be accompanied by tablet computers that it could be tested on.
Calling it a “no compromise solution,” Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division, said that not only does Windows 8 run on both ARM system-on-a-chip architectures with the decreased battery demand those CPUs sport, it also runs on x86 processors along with the backwards compatibility that provides.
“Everything that runs on Windows 7 will run on Windows 8,” Sinofsky said, adding that the company has now sold nearly 450 million licenses to Windows 7 to date.
Under the rubric of “reimagining Windows,” Sinofsky and company touted the risky bets Microsoft is making to try to keep Windows and PCs relevant even as the world shifts to a more mobile model for computing. ARM, for instance, is the dominant processor used in most mobile phones.
Among the major differences from earlier versions of Windows is support for multi-touch interfaces — although it also supports the mouse and keyboard — and a tile-based look and feel for applications referred to as “Metro,” which is remarkably similar to Windows Phone 7’s user interface.
Some of Sinofsky’s message seems familiar enough, though.
“Windows 8 will let you pick the languages that you want to use to write applications,” Julie Larson-Green, corporate vice president of program management for Windows, told the audience.
Additionally, Samsung is not the only vendor lined up to provide compatible hardware for Windows 8 — the list includes AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.
Neither are Build attendees the only ones who will have access to the technical preview code. Beginning later this week, developers will be able to download the preview code from the newly created Windows Dev Center, Sinofsky said.
Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.