Windows 8 Secrets: PC and Device Requirements

Last month, Microsoft released its hardware requirement documentation for Windows 8 logo certification. This documentation contains Microsoft’s guidelines for designing systems which successfully meet Windows performance, quality, and feature criteria, to assure the optimum Windows 8 computing experience. As you’ve probably noticed, the blogosphere is hung up on one of the Secure Boot on ARM requirements, thanks to a single misguided post about this issue, completely missing the far more interesting information peppered throughout the document.

Here's some of the more interesting requirements.

5-point digitizers
Microsoft requires that Windows 8 touch PCs use digitizers supporting a minimum of 5 touch points. Yep, you no longer have to hunt down information to answer that question: “Hey, does this thing do multi-touch?”. This requirement ensures your Windows 8 certified PC supports at least a hand of fingers on the screen, for all those gestures and finger-painting activities.

“Hey Windows 8, this is HP TouchSmart… you win.” (Even the newest HP TouchSmart only works with two touch points.)

NFC “touch marks”
Microsoft requires that Windows 8 PCs featuring NFC technology have “touch marks”. This one is a no brainer – A PC, likely a tablet or slate, must have a sticker or similar signage indicating where another NFC capable device can mate with it. I bring this up because we’re not used to NFC being visible in this manner. Today, NFC is available in Google’s new Galaxy Nexus phone for the most part. To invoke it, you presumably start a supportive application and mash it onto a NFC reader, moving it around until it beeps. With a larger form factor, however, knowing where the sensor is physically located becomes crucial to avoid Neanderthal-like clashing of tablets.

Hardware buttons
Microsoft requires that Windows 8 tablet/convertible PCs have 5 hardware buttons. Not three; not six. Five. Those buttons are:

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

The Windows Key will be at least 10.5 mm in diameter and be sported in any number of shapes (e.g. circular, rectangular, square).

New button combo for CTRL + ALT + DEL
Microsoft requires that Windows 8 PCs joined to a domain and without keyboards implement new Ctrl+Alt-Del sequence. While the on-screen keyboard remains an option for logging into a domain-joined PC, the quicker (and new) option is to press Windows Key + Power.

Minimum component set for tablets and convertible PCs
Microsoft requires that Windows 8 tablet/convertible PCs feature a minimum set of components. Requiring partners to install a baseline set of components isn’t new, but we can now begin to drool over what future Windows 8 tablets/convertible PCs will look like. Here’s what a bare minimum Windows 8 tablet would look like:

  • Storage: At least 10gb free space after the out-of-box experience completes
  • System firmware: UEFI
  • Networking: WLAN and Bluetooth 4.0 + LE (low energy)
  • Graphics: Direct3D 10 device w/ WDDM 1.2 driver
  • Resolution: 1366x768
  • Touch support: At least 5 touch points, must pass all tests
  • Camera: 720p
  • Ambient Light Sensor: 1-30k lux capable w/ dynamic range of 5-60K
  • Magnetometer
  • Accelerometer: 3 axes w/ data rates >= 50Hz
  • Gyroscope
  • USB 2.0: At least one controller and exposed port
  • Speakers

No reboot driver upgrades
Microsoft requires that Windows 8 PCs support no-reboot upgrade of graphic card drivers. Finally. While Windows Vista has supported reboot-less upgrades of WDDM drivers, enforcing that requirement was hard with unified driver sets containing both XDDM and WDDM drivers mixed in. With XDDM drivers gone in Windows 8, however, enforcement is easy and should be welcomed by users and gaming enthusiasts with wide open arms.

2 second resume ... but not for ARM
Microsoft doesn’t require that Windows 8 ARM PCs resume in two seconds or less ... only Intel-compatible Windows 8 PCs have this requirement. And yes, the two seconds max for Standby (S3) to “resume complete” requirement was in place since Windows 7. But I suspect ARM doesn't come with this requirement because of architecture implementation volatility or, more likely, that Microsoft simply doesn’t yet have enough data in this space. As ARM improves and matures as a Windows host, I suspect we’ll see this requirement pop up in a future release.