Come 2007 when you pick the Windows Vista box off shelves, the printed requirements on that box will be simple: 800MHz CPU, 512MB RAM, and a DirectX 9.0-Capable graphics card. Users who want the "premium experience" (read: Aero interface) will need 1GHz CPU, 1GB of RAM, and plenty of RAM for thatDirectX 9.0-Capable graphics card. Those requirements will likely never change, at least not for the first release of Vista.
If you’re an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) like Gateway or Dell, it gets much more complex than that, however. For OEMs, there is a higher standard to meet if they wish to place a "Vista Premium" sticker on a laptop or desktop computer. The logo sticker is meant to assure consumers that Microsoft’s Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) have validated a machine’s configuration, and OEMs use the process, even if they don’t love it.
Microsoft recently informed system builders as to what the company considers to be the optimal configuration for the "Premium" Windows Vista experience, and it will use these standards to govern its logo certification program. For us, that means we have a glimpse of what we can expect to see shipping from OEMs in a few short months, as they traditionally have hastened to meet logo certification requirements. In no particular order, these are the notable additional requirements for Premium certification:
HD Audio support that passes a "high-fidelity audio experience" test (exception: Business class systems have until June 1, 2007).Support for Direct3d 9 and DXGI feature sets (Direct3d 10 mandated by June 1, 2008).At least one digital output (e.g., DVI-D) for all add-in video adapters (not integrated video: that doesn’t change until June 1, 2008).100Mb Ethernet and/or and WiFi (802.11g must be supported; 802.11a can be supported only in addition to 802.11g).USB 2.0 ports throughoutSystem resumes from ACPI S3 state (“suspend-to-ram”) in <2 seconds (does not include user mode initialization, i.e., total "wake" time will be longer than 2 seconds)
June 1, 2007, or later:
A Green Driver Quality Rating for all drivers.If Serial ATA is used, Serial ATA 2.5 must be supported."Protected Video Path" (PVP) support, including HDCP.Support for booting from USB drives, including flash drivesHiccup-free HD playback, including hardware-based H.264/MPEG-4 decoding.At least one digital output (e.g., DVI-D) for all integrated video adapters (June 1, 2008).
It has been erroneously reported elsewhere that Premium certification requires multi-monitor support. This is not the case. Microsoft only requires that if dual monitors are supported by a dual-head graphics adapter, the primary monitor output must meet certain specifications. (Microsoft here is concerned that users’ display capabilities not sink below Aero-support levels should a second monitor be attached, and a card’s resources are taxed.)
Additionally, it has also been erroneously reported that "Vista Premium" systems will require hybrid hard drives. This is incorrect, as I have noted on M-Dollar.
There are no major surprises here in my opinion, but a few of the choices are worth commenting on. First, I was surprised to see 802.11a support tied to 802.11g support, if only because Microsoft pushes 802.11a for wireless media streaming. Singling it out for support might have made sense for the company’s own goals, but perhaps the ubiquity of the 802.11b/g family played a factor here. It’s certainly the better choice.
Also, I’m sure some readers are surprised to see that support for next-generation video "protection schemes" such as HDCP and PVP (along with HDMI, by definition) not required until later this year, and in the case of integrated digital outputs, not until 2008. The primary reason for this, I suspect, is the fact that the Image Constraint Token is "on hold," as I previously reported. With 2011 looking more and more likely for a true cutoff date for HD analog outputs, Microsoft appears confident that 2008 is adequate lead time to build in support. But again, add-in video adapters will require digital outputs and HDCP support by the middle of 2007.
There are a number of other changes, but none as important as those I have listed above. Generally speaking, the requirements are cautious when you keep Vista’s normal graphics requirements in mind (Direct X 9-class, plenty of RAM). On the other hand, they aren’t required for "Vista Basic" computers, which I find disappointing. My recommendation: if you go OEM, and you want to run Windows Vista, go for the systems that are certified for Premium.