Microsoft is working with Nvidia, Texas Instruments and Qualcomm for the ARM System on a Chip (SOC) processors. The reference design tablets will be seeded to a select group of developers, Microsoft officials said.
The first of the reference design tablets was a Toshiba model with a 10-in. screen that runs on the Nvidia Tegra 3 chip, a quad-core processor. The Tegra 3's quad-core processors actually have five cores, with the fifth used as a kind of battery backup.
Other tablets shown run ARM designs, including the Qualcomm Snapdragon and a Texas Instruments processor, although Microsoft didn't offer any more details on those platforms. A fourth reference design tablet ran the Intel Clovertrail x86 processor.
All four of the tablets will feature "connected standby" capability, which means they can be turned on instantly and when the screen is dark, they will update apps the same way a smartphone does, said Michael Angiulo, vice president of Windows planning.
"They stay in sync all the time," Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows division. "You can turn your [tablet] on and have mail. These [tablets] are the same Windows [as a desktop or laptop], that's what's so cool."
Windows 8 has the same kernel and operating system across platforms, the officials said. All the tablets will have Office apps, running natively, including PowerPoint, Word and Excel, Sinofsky said.
Sinofsky also showed how touchscreen devices of all sizes can function along with mouse and keyboard input, opening up a broad range of device possibilities.
The consumer preview of Windows 8 released Wednesday has more than 100,000 changes from the previous developer's preview, Sinofsky said.
Windows 8 enterprise features will be shown at the Cebit trade show in Germany, he said.
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 email@example.com .
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