Microsoft Details Some Windows 8 Tablet Requirements

By Wesley Fenlon

Windows software developers will have to recompile their applications to run on ARM SoCs.

Head still spinning from that first official look at Windows 8’s metro UI? It’s a whole new look for the desktop, dominated by bright tiles and touch-friendly gestures. After dropping that software preview at D9, Microsoft popped in at Computex on the other side of the globe to talk about the second part of the Windows 8 equation: hardware support. ARM processor support remains one of Windows 8’s most hotly anticipated features, and the Computex demonstration didn’t disappoint.

Microsoft showed Windows 8 running on everything from a Qualcomm ARM tablet to an AMD Llano laptop and laid down the law on hardware restrictions: every device running Windows 8, be it tablet or desktop, must support a minimum resolution of 1024x768. To take advantage of the Windows 8’s side-by-side window view, that requirement rises to 1366x768.

Microsoft demoed hardware with ARM SoCs from Qualcomm, TI and Nvidia and x86 processors from Intel and AMD. Windows 8 is Windows 8: the OS runs the same on ARM and x86 with one major exception. ARM Windows does not include an x86 emulator, which means traditional x86 software (i.e. virtually everything on Windows) will not run on ARM devices. However, since the drivers and underlying OS code base are identical, ARM versions will (hopefully) be easy for software devs to recompile and offer alongside x86 downloads.

Windows 8 will supposedly be able to hit the start screen from a cold boot in 6 seconds thanks to the UEFI BIOS--and a solid state drive, of course. Hard drive systems won’t fare quite so well, but that’s to be expected. Wake from sleep should be instantaneous.

Microsoft plans to guide devicemakers into building standardized hardware features like appropriately sized tablet bezels and high resolution displays. Any device that comes in under the recommended 1024x768 resolution will miss out on the Windows 8 tile UI and will be locked in to the classic desktop; similar restrictions will likely be revealed closer to the operating system’s release.