Windows 8 tablets miss CES, will have five-point multi-touch

Five-finger multi-touch, 720p cameras and 1366-by-768 resolution screens will be among the requirements for Windows 8 tablets, according to documentation from Microsoft.

Rafael Rivera, who blogs at Within Windows, picked through Microsoft’s Windows 8 hardware certification requirements and reported some key findings.

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Notably, all Windows 8 tablets and tablet-laptop hybrids must have five hardware buttons: power, rotation lock, volume up, volume down and a Windows key. These tablets must support five touch points at a time, and include an ambient light sensor (for auto brightness adjustments, most likely), magnetometer (for compass applications), accelerometer and gyroscope (for motion controls).

Windows 8 specs

Windows 8 tablets will also have to meet some minimum specs, including 10 GB of free space, a 720p camera, Direct3D 10 support and 1366-by-768 resolution. Microsoft has previously said Windows 8 would accommodate 1024-by-768 devices, but without support for side-by-side app viewing.

Rivera didn’t report any processor or memory requirements, but Microsoft has said that all Windows 7 machines will be able to run Windows 8. For the Windows 8 Developer Preview, a 1 GHz processor was required, plus either 1 GB of RAM for 32-bit systems or 2 GB of RAM for 64-bit systems.

Some devices may have additional requirements depending on features. For example, devices with near-field communications technology must have “touch marks,” indicating where the sensor is located for communicating with another device. And tablets joined to a domain must use the power button plus the Windows button in place of Ctrl-Alt-Delete to log in. Finally, x86-based machines must resume from standby in two seconds — a requirement that has been in place since Windows 7. That requirement will not apply to ARM-based Windows devices.

There aren’t any big surprises in this list, and many of the requirements seem like reasonable ways for Microsoft to enforce some consistency among Windows 8 hardware makers. The only controversial requirement, pointed out by the Software Freedom Law Centre, is a mandatory Secure Boot feature for ARM-based Windows 8 devices. This requirement will prevent users from installing alternative operating systems, such as Android, and essentially locks down ARM-based Windows 8 hardware.

Where are Windows 8 tablets?

Considering that 2012 will be the year of Microsoft’s dramatic upgrade to Windows 8, one might have thought the floor of the Consumer Electronics Show last week would be filled with prospective hardware platforms for the new Windows operating system. it might have seemed logical to expect that to hear lots about tablets with Windows 8. But news on that front was surprisingly…quiet.

While CEO Steve Ballmer talked Windows 8 at his keynote and showed a Qualcomm prototype tablet running Windows 8, Intel’s Paul Otellini briefly showed a and Lenovo unveiled its innovative IdeaPad Yoga, a Windows 8-primed convertible notebook whose screen can twist around to turn into a tablet, little chatter was heard on the Windows tablet front.

The same three companies that showed off Windows 8 on ARM processors at BUILD were in the mix once more. Nvidia got things started by having a Microsoft rep do a five-minute demo of Windows 8 running smoothly on an Nvidia reference platform at its press conference. Then, just hours thereafter, Ballmer was on stage showing the Qualcomm tablet already seen at BUILD. And in private briefings off the show floor, Texas Instruments displayed a Windows 8 reference platform.

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A few Chinese tablet makers displayed tablets of distinctly generic design running Windows 7, but only one spoke specifically to Windows 8 plans. One tablet maker, Kupa, showed off its X11, a Windows 7 tablet available now that runs an Intel Atom Z670 processor; Kupa exhibited the tablet running the Windows 8 Developer’s Preview, and billed it as Windows 8-ready thanks to its 1366-by-768-pixel, 16:9 aspect ratio display — which matches to Microsoft’s optimized target for Windows 8; and to the specs of Samsung’s Series 7 tablet, distributed to Microsoft BUILD attendees last fall with the Windows 8 preview preinstalled.

But beyond the Yoga — an inventive concept that’s perfect for making noise at a big event like CES — none of the tablet makers were ready to talk about Windows 8 on a tablet, and what we might expect to see in that form factor. Samsung had nothing to discuss at the show on the Windows 8 tablet front.

Fujitsu’s Paul Moore, senior director of product development, hinted that Microsoft is encouraging a clean look on tablets that will run the new OS, but “they’ve been a bit vague so far.” Fujitsu, which already has the Stylistic Q550 on the market running an Intel Atom CPU, is looking at least one, maybe two updates to that model’s specs by midyear. The company is looking at boosting performance for better video playback. “That seems to be the biggest challenge on Atom,” Moore says. “And that’s the noticeable complaint customers have: The video is a little choppy.”

 

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