WinInfo Daily Update, March 29, 2006:Finally, Microsoft Releases Windows Vista Hardware Requirements

Finally, Microsoft Releases Windows Vista Hardware Requirements

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In the News

- Finally, Microsoft Releases Windows Vista Hardware Requirements

- EU Warns Microsoft About Vista

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Finally, Microsoft Releases Windows Vista Hardware Requirements

Over the years that Windows Vista has been in development, I've been asked one question more than any other about this next-generation OS: What hardware will it require? Microsoft has always been pretty vague about the requirements. A few years back, it specified that Vista systems would require a DirectX 9.0-compliant video card to provide the best experience--that is, to use Vista's Aero Glass UI--but since then, I've heard nothing. I eventually wrote my own guide to buying a Vista-compliant PC, "Buying a Windows Vista PC Today," which you can find at the URL below.

But this week, Microsoft finally, if quietly, revealed its own requirements and recommendations.

According to a page on the Microsoft Web site, "There is no reason to wait till Microsoft launches Windows Vista before you deploy PCs." The company then lays out the following guidelines for what constitutes a Vista-capable PC:
- A "modern" Intel, AMD, or VIA Technologies CPU
- 512MB of RAM or more
- A DirectX 9-class 3D graphics card

Such a system will provide what Microsoft calls a "good" experience with Vista, though it might not provide you with the high-end Aero Glass UI. For a better experience, the company recommends a graphics processor that supports the new Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) technology. Such systems will enjoy "enhanced graphics stability, multi-application performance, and monitor hot-plugging" when compared to Windows XP, Microsoft says. For the best experience, Microsoft recommends DirectX 9-class graphics hardware that supports WDDM and Pixel Shader 2.0 technologies, and 64-256MB of dedicated video RAM, depending on screen resolution. (For resolutions up to 1280 x 1024, 64MB of video RAM is appropriate; 128MB is fine for resolutions of 1920 x 1200 or less; and 256MB is required for higher resolution displays.)

For more information about Vista's hardware requirements, visit the Microsoft site at

My article, "Buying a Windows Vista PC Today," written about a month ago, is surprisingly similar, if less dry:

EU Warns Microsoft About Vista

The European Union's (EU's) warning about Vista might just be the best news about Vista that Microsoft has gotten in a long time. I mean, think about it: If Vista weren't so impressive and comprehensive, why would the EU care so much about it?

In a recent letter to Microsoft, the EU's top antitrust regulator, Neelie Kroes, warns that the software giant won't be allowed to sell Vista in Europe if the OS bundles certain features. Although the exact feature set the EU is concerned about is currently unknown, an EU spokesperson said that the EU specifically mentioned Internet search features, Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7, Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies, and Microsoft's new Metro feature, which will compete with Adobe Acrobat PDF.

All these features have one thing in common, the EU says: They're currently available from Microsoft or other companies. The fear is that Microsoft will again bundle technologies in Windows in a bid to harm competition.

"We expect that Microsoft will design Vista in a way which is in line with the European competition laws," Kroes said this week. "It would be rather stupid to design something that is not."

The EU is also worried that Microsoft might bundle various security technologies in Vista. Although it didn't specifically mention Vista's Windows Defender application, the EU is concerned because the bundling of such applications might harm third-party developers such as Symantec and McAfee, who make competing products.

Acknowledging receipt of the letter last week, a Microsoft spokesperson said that the company was aligned with the EU's expectations. "Consumers are demanding a more secure, functional operating system," he said. "And Microsoft has developed Vista to respond to that demand, while respecting its legal responsibilities." The EU is currently determining whether to launch a formal investigation of Vista to halt its sale in early 2007.

In related news, Microsoft is allegedly so nervous about its current EU antitrust woes that it hired several former EU justices to stage a mock trial designed to predict how its actual EU court case might proceed. The mock trial was held in January, but there's no word yet whether Microsoft prevailed. Microsoft faces the real thing Thursday and Friday, when it faces off against EU regulators in a closed-door session in Brussels.

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