Microsoft tweaks Vista logo compliance language

Redmond (WA) - With the January consumer rollout date for Microsoft Windows Vista growing nearer - instead of further away, as was the case in March - the company is making subtle changes to the language it uses to describe its logo compliance programs. As the company launches a new "Get Ready for Windows Vista" Web site today, the number of explicit tiers of Vista compliance has been whittled down yet again, from what some last year said could be as many as five, down to three, and now down to two.

In a new scheme which could be credited for being somewhat less confusing than the previous scheme, Microsoft admits that Windows Vista can at least run on a machine with as little as an 800 MHz CPU and 512 MB of RAM. It is this 800 MHz CPU that Microsoft calls a "modern processor" - in last month’s version of the "Vista Capable" tier, Microsoft left open to interpretation. This month, Microsoft is not even prescribing a minimum hard drive size for a system to qualify as "Vista Capable."

  Designed for Windows XP Windows Vista Capable Windows Vista Premium Ready
CPU 233 MHz (rec.) ; 300 MHz (req.) 800 MHz ("modern processor") 1 GHz
Main memory 128 MB 512 MB 512 MB (req.)

1 GB (rec.)

Hard drive space 1.5 GB free Not listed 40 GB total ; 15 GB free
Graphics driver support DirectX 7 ; Super VGA DirectX 9.0L (for WDDM, rec.) DirectX 9.0L (for WDDM) + Shader Model 2.0
Dedicated graphics memory None None (req.) 128 MB
Graphics memory bandwidth N/A Not listed 1800 MB/s (rec. for Aero)

The most noticeable difference this month is the merger of what was being called the "Vista Ready" and "Vista Premium" tiers, for what Microsoft is now calling "Vista Premium Ready" (although the upper-class version of the new OS will actually be called "Vista Ultimate"). The company no longer specifies a minimum graphics memory bandwidth for the basic "Capable" tier.

But to be "Premium Ready," Vista has to be capable of running with the full Aero user interface, which includes support for alpha transparencies - enabling portions of the window to look like semi-transparent, frosted glass. For the full effect, which Microsoft’s new Vista Upgrade Advisor program labels the "Elegant User Experience," your graphics card needs to be capable of addressing 128 MB, either dedicated or shared ; plus, it needs to support Shader Model 2.0 at the very least. (Shader Model 3.0 is now common among recently sold graphics cards, with manufacturers making plans to support SM 4.0 in new models for the second half of this year).

The hardware results page from Microsoft’s Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor, whose first public beta was distributed on the company’s "Get Ready" Web site this afternoon. This particular report shows the system being tested can "run the core experiences" - as well as perhaps mix some other metaphors - but it would prefer to see 128 MB and Shader Model 2.0 on the graphics card.

We tested the latest beta of Vista Upgrade Advisor, which Microsoft made available on its "Get Ready" site today, on a three-year-old PC with a 32-bit AMD Athlon CPU and 1 GB of RAM. The only feature the Upgrade Advisor didn’t particularly like was its Nvidia GeForce MX graphics card, the equivalent of which is sold today in the "economy" section of most retailers. The Advisor recommended a graphics card with 128 MB of addressable memory, and support for Shader Model 2.0. (GeForce FX graphics cards do support SM 2.0, and cards in its "7" series with CineFX support support SM 3.0).

But the Advisor did not recommend an upgrade to DirectX 10 when it becomes available. At one point, DX10 was believed to be a requirement for the Aero interface ; both the Advisor, as well as Microsoft’s statement this afternoon, confirm that DX10 will not be a requirement for Aero.

On its Web site for partners last Tuesday, Microsoft posted a notice saying the company will have more to say about the Vista logo program next week, during its annual WinHEC conference in Seattle. A version 1.0 draft of the Vista logo program document could possibly be ready by that time.

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