Microsoft continued its surprises at its Tech Ed New Zealand conference with a demonstration of an unnamed tablet. The relatively slim design, according to Alan Burchill, was billed only as a "quad-core Windows slate" and would be given out at an "upcoming Microsoft event." It's presumed this is an allusion to the Build conference in September, where developers will get more information about writing Windows 8 apps.
The processor, while unnamed, is very likely to be the NVIDIA Kal-El, also known as the Tegra 3. It should be the first quad-core ARM processor and would be the only chip of its kind ready for around Build that could fit into a slim tablet. Most other processors from Qualcomm, TI, and others aren't due to ship until 2012.
Microsoft has shown Windows 8 example hardware before, at Computex, but all of it was rough and either a test mule or an existing PC adapted for the new OS. The new tablet could be a clue as to how real, production Windows 8 tablets will look. They should finally get much closer to tablets like the iPad in dimensions and could last more than just the few hours of an Intel-based Windows 7 slate.
The new OS is expected to be the ultimate test of Microsoft's view that tablets should be PCs rather than "post-PC" devices, carrying a simple, touch-native UI but support for full desktop apps underneath. A completion expected in April 2012 or later, however, could leave a crucial window open for Apple, Samsung, and other major non-Windows tablet makers to capture more of the market.