Microsoft to disburse Windows 8 tablets at BUILD

Attendees at Microsoft's BUILD conference later this month could be walking away with something more than hangovers and bristling notepads, with rumours pointing to free Samsung tablets for all.

According to sources quoted by the Korea Economic Daily, Microsoft has partnered with Samsung to produce a range of Windows 8-powered tablet PCs - and conference attendees will be given freebies in order to encourage developers to investigate the potential of the new operating system.

It's no secret that Microsoft will be showing off Windows 8 - the first mainstream Windows version to include support for the ARM architecture, as used in mobile devices, alongside the usual x86 and x86-64 architectures - at BUILD, with the company's staff having long since confirmed it. A release of an early version on a tablet form factor device, however, is an interesting possibility.

Samsung, for its part, has form: when it's not being sued by Apple the company produces a range of tablet devices, and has previously partnered with Google to offer attendees at the Google I/O conference free Galaxy Tab 10.1 Android-powered tablets.

Thanks to that, it's not so hard to imagine Samsung using a similar hardware base to produce a tablet running Windows 8 for ARM and giving it away free - but what's Microsoft's end-game?

The company has rubbished rumours that Windows 8 will be launching this year - even when those rumours started with the company's somewhat outspoken Steve Ballmer - meaning that attendees at the conference would be getting a tablet running an early beta version of the operating system.

That's a key thing for Microsoft: the company has already stated that, unlike Apple and Google, it won't be using its smartphone platform - Windows Phone - to power tablet devices, suggesting that the new Metro interface planned for Windows 8 will be perfectly suited to large-screen touch devices.

By distributing a beta release with compatible hardware, Microsoft gets a ready collection of testers who will be more than happy to feed back improvements and tweaks - something that Windows 8 will need if it really wants to take on the likes of iOS and Android in the tablet space.

Samsung, for its part, becomes the company that produced the first Windows 8 tablet - and, it is no doubt hoping, will become synonymous with the concept.

Both Samsung and Microsoft are staying quiet on this one, but with BUILD due to open on the 13th of September we don't have long to wait to see if the rumours are true.