Exploring the Windows 8 PC hardware requirements

There’s been much discussion this week about a Microsoft mandate for its new Windows 8 operating system, which requires that devices with ARM processors carry a controversial feature known as Secure Boot. This feature will limit the range of operating systems that can be used on the device. The information was discovered in an update to the 'Windows 8 Hardware Certification Requirements' documentation, published back in December.

In a post on Within Windows, Rafael Rivera has pointed to other revelations included in that updated documentation, which includes new information on the hardware requirements for Windows 8 systems. There’s a few highlights worthy of mention and the full documentation is available from MSDN.


Minimum system spec

As with any new Windows OS, Microsoft has established a basic set of hardware requirements on which the operating system is designed to run. For touch-enabled tablet devices and convertible PCs, Microsoft has established the following requirements (these are obviously subject to change before Windows 8 ships):

-  Storage: 10GB of free space following initial OS installation
-  Firmware: UEFI
-  Networking: WLAN and Bluetooth 4.0 + LE (low energy)
-  Graphics: Direct 3D 10 required with WDDM 1.2 driver
-  Resolution: 1366x768px
-  Touch: At least five touch points
-  Camera: 720p
-  Ambient light sensor: 1-30k lux capable, with dynamic range of 5-60k
-  Magnetometer
-  Accelerometer
-  Gyroscope
-  USB 2.0: At least one controller and one exposed port
-  Speakers


NFC

With near field communications (NFC) gradually proliferating across the technology landscape, Microsoft requires that NFC touch points must be highlighted on each device. Presumably to prevent bewildered users from bashing their tablets and notebooks against each other at random in a desperate bid to find the NFC sweet spots, “touch marks” are required to make this process simpler.


Hardware buttons

As with Windows Phone, Microsoft has established a set of hardware buttons that must be present on each Windows 8 device:

-  Windows Key
-  Power
-  Rotation lock
-  Volume up
-  Volume down

Presumably, manufacturers may add further buttons to this list if desired, but they must include those five at minimum. The Windows Key may come in various shapes – rectangle, square, circular, even a squircle – but it must have a minimum diagonal width of 10.5mm.


Two-second resume, except for ARM

Microsoft requires that Intel-compatible Windows 8 devices resume from standby to ‘resume complete’ in under two seconds, but this requirement does not extend to ARM systems.


CTRL + ALT + DEL shortcut

For touch and keyboardless systems, Microsoft demands that systems be able to implement CTRL + ALT + DEL functionality easily. The new shortcut for this on such devices is to press Windows Key + Power.


For now, these details will help us begin to understand what the first Windows 8 devices will look like when they go on sale later this year, beyond the engineering prototypes seen so far.

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