Microsoft has said it expects Vista code to be ready in November with general availability in early 2007. Released just days before Microsoft's annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Seattle, the hardware specifications distinguish between requirements that will make a machine "Vista Premium Ready" or simply "Vista capable."
At the bare minimum, a machine needs at least an 800 MHz processor, 512 MB of memory and a graphics card that can run DirectX 9 graphics. Computers optimized for premium performance on the OS can be 32-bit or 64-bit, but they will require a 1 GHz processor, 1 GB of main memory, 128 MB of memory and a graphics card that supports Vista's new graphics interface, called Windows Aero.
Approximately half of the machines being shipped today are Vista-capable, according to Greg Amrofell, a product manager in Microsoft's Windows client group. Amrofell said he thought that by Microsoft releasing this information, it would demystify a number of concerns and rumors about what a Vista OS upgrade would require.
The details are in line with what most [Microsoft observers] were expecting to hear about the hardware requirements, said Rob Helm, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash. Still, he noted, the complexity in the premium requirements may be a deterrent to purchasing Vista quickly among enterprise Windows managers who often refresh hardware along with an OS upgrade.
"The premium requirements are pretty complicated," Helm said. "Right now it is hard to find machines, particularly laptops, with these capabilities in them."
Microsoft also has launched a Windows Vista "Get Ready" Web site in tandem with the hardware announcement. The site contains information about machines on the market now and upcoming PCs that are compatible with Vista.