Microsoft's Windows Phone came with a fairly strict set of hardware requirements for the devices, tied to a straightforward goal: Establish a consistent user experience across multiple manufacturers' offerings.
The company's next big mobile effort, Windows 8 on tablets and convertible PCs, will apparently have its own set of minimum hardware requirements, according to a rather voluminous document ("Windows Hardware Certification Requirements") posted on a Microsoft Website. Those requirements include at least 10GB of free space, WLAN and Bluetooth 4.0 + Long-Term Evolution (LTE) for networking, minimum 1,366-by-768 screen resolution, at least one USB 2.0 controller and exposed port, a 720p camera, and a combination of gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer and magnetometer.
"These systems are primarily focused on consumption scenarios such as Web browsing, media and casual gaming," reads an accompanying note. "It is likely that this form factor will also emerge in the enterprise as a productivity PC." In light of that, it says: "These systems are optimized for consumption and light productivity. Requirements are based on these usage patterns."
The document also defines a "convertible form factor" as a PC that transforms into a tablet once input devices such as keyboard and mouse ("pointing device") are removed.
On his Within Windows blog (not affiliated with Microsoft), Rafael Rivera delved further into Windows 8 requirements and found some other points of note, including that the company will require devices to support a minimum of five touch points (in other words, the whole hand) and feature exactly five hardware buttons-power, rotation lock, Windows key, volume up and volume down. Pressing the Windows key plus power will be the tablet equivalent of Ctrl+Alt+Del.
Those Windows 8 tablets built atop ARM architecture apparently won't need to come alive and resume in two seconds or less, unlike their Intel-compatible cousins. "I suspect ARM doesn't come with this requirement because of architecture implementation volatility," Rivera wrote, "or, more likely, that Microsoft simply doesn't have enough data in this space."
Microsoft used the recently concluded Consumer Electronics Show to reveal still more details about Windows 8, which will likely appear in the second half of 2012.
"People don't want to compromise on what they have today," CEO Steve Ballmer told the audience during his keynote, referring to the upcoming operating system's tablet compatibility. "They want the best of what they have, and the best of what they want."
Despite Windows' overwhelming market share on PCs, Windows 8 will face some significant challenges in the tablet arena, where it faces Apple's best-selling iPad in addition to a variety of touch-screens running Google Android. Those rivals will surely battle to prevent Windows from gaining traction among tablet users.