Microsoft planning WP7-style hardware guidelines for Windows 8 tablets

One of the key features touted at the announcement of Windows Phone 7 last year was the limited hardware specifications that Microsoft permitted for the first wave of devices.  A key advantage of the decision to restrict the hardware configurations available to manufacturers, we were told, was that this would limit fragmentation, and result in a smoother and more reliable update process.

The dream didn’t exactly pan out that way for Windows Phone – as weeks of delays for both the February and March updates, and glitches with updating specific devices from Samsung in particular, will attest – but that’s not stopping Microsoft from choosing to impose similar restrictions on its new Windows 8 tablets.

In a speech at Computex, reported by Bloomberg, Acer Chairman and CEO, JT Wang, said that with the next version of Windows, Microsoft is “really controlling the whole thing, the whole process”, adding that component suppliers and OEMs “all feel it’s very troublesome”.

At this stage, it’s not known whether Microsoft will choose only to limit certain component choices (such as only supporting Snapdragon and Tegra chipsets, for example) for Windows 8 tablets, or if they’ll go further towards the Windows Phone 7 method of defining a minimum specification list that all devices must meet.

Bloomberg is confident that we’ll get our first glimpse of Windows 8 in a matter of days, citing three sources close to Microsoft, who also revealed that it would debut running on an Nvidia Tegra chip.  Microsoft has been working on an ARM-compatible version of Windows for some time, as it finally prepares to take on Apple's dominant iPad in the mobile computing space.

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Okay... but I didn't draw a line in the article between firmware and hardware, so while I agree with what you're saying, I'm not sure that it's entirely relevant here.

Yes, the hardware limitations established a minimum standard to ensure fidelity and consistency of user experience, but that was not the sole aim of establishing a base hardware configuration - a simpler, more rationalised update process was identified as also being a benefit of that decision.

In an interview with Engadget in July 2010, the legendary Joe Belfiore - corporate VP for Windows Phone - emphasised the wisdom of Microsoft's prescriptive hardware requirements for the platform, adding that it has "a great, rich updating mechanism, so getting a '7' phone doesn't mean just getting the software we're gonna ship on day 1, but a stream of updates". So far, the hardware limitations - while clearly being successful from a UX perspective - clearly haven't yielded any significant results in simplifying the update process, given that it's taken over six months to get one major update (and two 'patches' - the pre-update 'February' update, and the more recent 7392 update) onto users' handsets (and some users still haven't received any updates at all - I only received all three updates (Feb, NoDo and 7392) yesterday, for example).

Anyway, neither any part of the article, nor my subsequent comments, were intended to point a finger in anger at Microsoft; there are simply facts surrounding the WP7 prescriptive hardware arrangement that warrant discussion in relation to a similar decision being made for Windows 8 tablets.

The dream didn't exactly pan out that way for Windows Phone - as weeks of delays for both the February and March updates, and glitches with updating specific devices from Samsung in particular, will attest - but that's not stopping Microsoft from choosing to impose similar restrictions on its new Windows 8 tablets.

sorry but WTF? are you on some kind of anti-MS or ant-WP7 tirade today? The hardware specifications for WP7 have worked pretty well except for some weird screw up that Samsung did in their production line. It has done pretty well with LG and HTC. Samsung with all its weird decisions still has managed to work out problems with Microsoft.

The hardware restrictions that Microsoft imposed were supposed to streamline the update process by ensuring that all devices had common componentry which could be tested and approved more quickly and efficiently than a more fragmented component set across devices and manufacturers.

What we ended up with was an update process that dragged from November (when Microsoft promised than a significant would be released "very soon") to NoDo's formal announcement a few months ago, and through to today, with some users still awaiting delivery of both the February and March updates.

While other manufacturers didn't have the same issues that Samsung did - issues which were acknowledged in the article - there's really no escaping the fact that the update process was not, by any standard, a success. There were problems across the board with the update process - from the latency between announcement and delivery, to the aforementioned hardware compatibility issues for a certain manufacturer, the approval process for carriers and OEMs to 'okay' each update for distribution, and the lack of transparency in communicating with end users during the process as a whole. All of these issues present opportunities for improvement, not only for distributing the Mango update, but also in terms of how Microsoft imposes any hardware controls on Windows 8 hardware.

It's not unreasonable to discuss these aspects, especially when the problems that dogged one platform might spread to affect another one.

gcaw said,
The hardware restrictions that Microsoft imposed were supposed to streamline the update process by ensuring that all devices had common componentry which could be tested and approved more quickly and efficiently than a more fragmented component set across devices and manufacturers.
....

well.... i agree with him. AND hardware restriction has nothing to do with firmware issues, microsoft never could be like "ok... you have to start making your firmware like this... because we say it". so the hardware has worked, samsung messed up with the firmware issues. that aren't related to hardware.
you dont see laggy UIs in wp7, maybe some run better games like Hydro Thunder GO then others. but still the phone works good, not like winmo which was built around non-powerful hardware so it slowed down and you had to reset it.

it has NOTHING to do with updates and firmware issues. the hardware could be 200mb ram and a processor of 200mhz and still they would have updated it if that was the minimun requirement. because updating phones and avoiding fragmentation isn't about hardware. they hardware is to make "similar experience" between phones. so a hardware issue was not because of wp7 restriction in hardware it was because samsung had alot of firmwares that just didn't work... and still they have worked with microsoft to solve.
so firmware has nothing to do with these hardware restriction... its about having a good experience so people wont be like "omg.... this is laggy and slow". firmware is software not hardware, there is no restriction about a firmware but you have to do it right, which samsung clearly messed up.

so thats an anti-wp7 comment, and they didn't have to include that crap. no matter if it happened or not, it wasn't about hardware restriction... it was about samsung not doing firmware the best they could and having alot of fimwares for each phone. so no matter how "yeah update was not fluid nor good" it wasn't about again: Hardware restriction. which (again) is about having a good experience and not having a laggy ui and apps not working right and some apps working in some phones, and having to reset the damn phone like happened with winmo because it was in a not so powerful hardware for a heavy/unoptimized OS like was winmo.

If win 8 tablets only runs on arm devices\tegra and do not support actual windows native applications I just do not see the point. I have an EXOPC which is a win7 tablet and the reason I went with it is cause it run windows and runs every windows program there is.

I think it is a good to have some standard hardware guidelines line 2GB ram certain amount of batter life etc. But the win8 tablets better be able to run actual windows programs

swanlee said,
If win 8 tablets only runs on arm devices\tegra and do not support actual windows native applications I just do not see the point. I have an EXOPC which is a win7 tablet and the reason I went with it is cause it run windows and runs every windows program there is.

I think it is a good to have some standard hardware guidelines line 2GB ram certain amount of batter life etc. But the win8 tablets better be able to run actual windows programs


ARM architecture is very different from the x86 and x64 architectures, and as such you will only be able to run an application on both architectures if the application gets compiled for both.
That's for native applications anyhow - I assume .NET applications will be able to work cross-architecture when run on Windows 8.

swanlee said,
If win 8 tablets only runs on arm devices\tegra and do not support actual windows native applications I just do not see the point.

A lot of applications are .NET based and can run on other platforms with the appropriate .net runtime.

OEMs : "Oh noes!!1! We won't be able to put crappy hardware without even fully testing it! Microsoft is evil!!1!11!"

winrez said,
Prevent cheap laptops like Vistas launch that had 512MB ram and non aero graphics

Agreed; that times a million. My sister was sold a similar dud - Microsoft need to put their foot down not only on ARM tablets but across the board.

THANK THE LORD! It seems they've certainly learned from their Windows Mobile days where only HTC could make a skin worth using but everything else out there was pure crap. Also makes it easier to release updates when the system is in a known state.

It makes sense. Microsoft spent years being the devil because Windows was in itself a patchwork of support for thousands of hardware components across a dozen categories and there's no elegant solution to that. It's a smart decision for them to say that mobile computing devices should have a limited hardware set in order to maximize compatibility and minimize support issues. I'm actually looking forward to seeing Windows tablets in the store and how they stack up against Android tabs and iPads.

I think this is wise, at least for the first generation or two. Once the best practises for the platform are worked out I wouldn't be surprised to see OEMs add their own value-add features to differenciate.

andrew_f said,
I think this is wise, at least for the first generation or two. Once the best practises for the platform are worked out I wouldn't be surprised to see OEMs add their own value-add features to differenciate.

I don't think they will stop the OEM from adding there own features...this is just to stop them from watering down the brand...with junk hardward...and ruin the experience with crapware..

andrew_f said,
I think this is wise, at least for the first generation or two. Once the best practises for the platform are worked out I wouldn't be surprised to see OEMs add their own value-add features to differenciate.

Perhaps as apps that can be optionally run, but certainly not the auto-run mess that makes any version of Windows chug on start-up. And with tablets, I'm glad Microsoft is finally growing a pair and realizing that the experience comes first. OEMs are still thinking it's like the PC market where they are only competing with other PC makers and differentiation is super important, when they forget there is no less than 4 other separate OS venders (Apple, Google, RIM and HP) out there with working tablets that will have a 1 year head start on a Windows-powered tablet. Creating a good tablet experience is the top priority, not OEM add-ins.

dagamer34 said,

Perhaps as apps that can be optionally run, but certainly not the auto-run mess that makes any version of Windows chug on start-up. And with tablets, I'm glad Microsoft is finally growing a pair and realizing that the experience comes first. OEMs are still thinking it's like the PC market where they are only competing with other PC makers and differentiation is super important, when they forget there is no less than 4 other separate OS venders (Apple, Google, RIM and HP) out there with working tablets that will have a 1 year head start on a Windows-powered tablet. Creating a good tablet experience is the top priority, not OEM add-ins.


This is strictly about hardware, while you are obviously describing OEM software.

Dead'Soul said,
thats the only way to control product quality and fragmentation. Android needs this...

Isn't it funny how Microsoft are adopting hardware standards whereas Google are doing the complete opposite, something they will no doubt come to regret.

SoyoS said,

Isn't it funny how Microsoft are adopting hardware standards whereas Google are doing the complete opposite, something they will no doubt come to regret.

After WMo 6.5 failure, Microsoft finally recognised how Apple succeeded it.

Dead'Soul said,
Android needs this...

NO! NO RESTRICTIONS OF ANY SORT! That's the main reason why I find Android better than iOS...

MASTER260 said,

NO! NO RESTRICTIONS OF ANY SORT! That's the main reason why I find Android better than iOS...

Lack of restrictions will also be the downfall of Android eventually, I don't care what anyone says fragmentation is clearly already apparent on Android and it will only get worse as time moves on unless Google implement some form of standards (which they did announce at I/O if I recall).

MASTER260 said,

NO! NO RESTRICTIONS OF ANY SORT! That's the main reason why I find Android better than iOS...

Yes but to make money it must be closed.. The only reason google is making money on android is because of Google search built right in so you have advertising right in your pocket..

Dead'Soul said,
thats the only way to control product quality and fragmentation. Android needs this...

I love this, I heard Acer was complaining that MS was being overly controlling about the tablets. GOOD, MS should open every conversation with "Because none of you have any sense of taste or design we are going to force it down your throat or you don't get to play." It really is shocking how bad devices from Taiwan, japan, etc can be. Really, just awful.