5,000 Samsung tablets for Google I/O attendees

If there was any doubt tablets are Google's top Android programming priority, the announcement that developers will get a free Samsung tablet should dispel them.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Android tablet is the free giveaway at this year's Google I/O conference.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Android tablet is the free giveaway at this year's Google I/O conference.Photo by Bonnie Cha/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO--Google got a lot of applause at its Google I/O conference, but the loudest came with the news that the company and Samsung are giving Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Android tablets to each of the attendees.

"Thanks to Samsung, all 5,000 of you are getting one today," said Hugo Barra, director of Android product management at the conference here today.

Freebies at Google I/O have happened before, but previously they had always been phones. The move today signals that tablets are Google's front-and-center Android priority when it comes to currying favor with programmers.

Android competes well with Apple's iOS when it comes to phones, but on the tablet front it trails the iPad significantly. Samsung pioneered the Android tablet market with its Galaxy Tab, but it barely dented Apple's iPad dominance.

Even with Motorola's Xoom, running the tablet-optimized Honeycomb version of Android, applications are few and far between. But the developers already in Google's orbit at the show here clearly were excited about their new freebie.

Google announced Android 3.1 today, too, a Honeycomb update that brings new user-interface features, the ability to plug in USB devices such as cameras and keyboards, and a movie rental service. Motorola's Xoom is getting the update today, but the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 will get it "over the next couple of weeks," Barra said.