Hardware requirements for tablets and tablet-laptop hybrids that will run Windows 8 are coming into focus. Detailed documents, posted recently on one of Microsoft's Web sites, specify the system, device, and driver requirements needed to certify a product as being Windows 8-compatible.
Requirements include 10 GB of free storage, WLAN, Bluetooth 4.0, and LTE networking, at least 1366x768-pixel display resolution, at least one USB 2.0 port, a camera capable of at least 720p resolution, a combined gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer, an ambient light sensor, Direct 3D 10 support, and speakers.
'Consumption and Light Productivity'
The documents note that, while the systems are expected to be used primarily in "consumption scenarios such as Web browsing, media, and casual gaming," it is also expected such devices will be used in the enterprise. As a result, Microsoft said, the specs are optimized for "consumption and light productivity."
Various observers have noted some interesting specifications among the many. These include screens that must support at least five touch points, leading to the possibility of multi-touch interaction beyond two fingers.
Also required are "touch marks" for near-field communication, or NFC, allowing tablet owners to know where they need to make contact with a reader or another tablet in order to conduct this form of mobile e-commerce.
Five hardware buttons are required -- power, rotation lock, Windows key, and volume up and down. For those users who thought they could forever leave behind the Control + Alt + Delete key sequence, it will be there but disguised. The requirements specify that this key sequence must be available in some way, such as a Windows key in conjunction with the power switch, for tablets that do not come with a keyboard.
Secure Boot Mode
Windows 8 machines also must support an upgrade of graphic card drivers without reboots. Intel-based Windows machines must resume from sleep in two seconds or less, but, so far, no such requirements for ARM-based ones.
One requirement has acquired some controversy, which is that there must be a Secure Boot ability for Windows 8 devices built on ARM processors. The Software Freedom Law Center has been front and center about this specification, since it means that users will not be able to install other operating systems, such as Android.
Non-ARM systems can offer a custom secure boot mode, allowing for alternative OS's. The Law Center discounted arguments that Microsoft is guarding against security issues on ARM devices, since custom mode allows other OS's on non-ARM machines.
The center noted that Microsoft is allowing custom mode on non-ARMs because it needs to be able to allow customers to run Windows 7 or XP if they wanted, among other reasons. Additionally, the organization pointed out that Windows 8, ARM-based laptops are coming, such as ones recently announced from Qualcomm, which will mean they will be "the first PCs ever produced that can never run anything but Windows."