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Correct hardware components are critical to Vista experience

To be able to take full advantage of Vista technology, hardware must be "Vista certified," meaning it must meet a certain set of criteria set by Microsoft.

SEATTLE -- It was a Vista love fest this week as hardware vendors showed off the latest features that will be made possible by Microsoft's next-generation desktop operating system.

It may be much longer, however, until IT managers actually see the OS running in their own IT shops.

Attendees at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference here witnessed what Vista features can do for the enterprise, as well as how Vista, Longhorn server and Office 2007 features will work together. One demo featured a slate tablet PC with a touch screen that can be used to share applications such as Powerpoint 2007 presentations. The LE1600ts Touch Screen Tablet made by Motion Computing Inc. in Austin, Texas, is one among a slew of hardware devices promised to be available for the Vista launch in early 2007.

"Whatever we are showing today will be available for launch time frame," said Mika Kramer, a director in the Windows division "A lot of it is available in prototype form now."

Hardware analyst Martin Reynolds, a vice president at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn., likened the LE1600ts to an Ultra Mobile PC, which along with similar mobile PCs is still a young technology. "Some of these early machines may not have all the graphics capabilities necessary for optimal performance," he said.

To be able to take full advantage of Vista technology, hardware must be "Vista certified," meaning it must meet a certain set of criteria set by Microsoft. Machines that have undergone significant testing will be awarded the "Vista certified" designation, said Dave Wascha, director of Windows Client business group. Several hardware components, including graphic cards, will have to pass specific requirements to receive the designation. However, the certification does not have any processor requirements.

"We've had some interesting discussions on where you draw line," Wascha said. "But we don't do designations for specific chips."

However, Reynolds doubted the availability, or immaturity, of Vista-capable machines would hinder early adoption of the OS. "The bigger obstacle is people often don't like upgrading their systems," he said. "If you look at the costs of a new system, people don't want to upgrade quickly," he said.

Just to run a new OS, a user may need a new disk drive or a new video card – those hardware components start to add up, said Olivier Zacek, an engineer with Karlsruhe, Germany-based Nero AG, which makes CD-burning software. "It will require users to upgrade to a lot of new hardware," Zacek said. "A lot of users are not interested now."

Microsoft only recently came clean on hardware needed to run Vista. Minimum requirements include 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.

And woe to the individual who runs Vista without the proper hardware, Zacek said. "One of our admins just set up Vista PC with a recent graphics card and the card overheated," he said. "He had to put a CPU fan on top of the graphics card just to use it."

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