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Microsoft is enforcing tough requirements for PCs that claim to be Vista Premium devices

While Microsoft works to prepare and update Windows Vista for launch in 2007, the hardware industry has continued to move forward. Microsoft however, has been following the hardware world steadily, incorporating changes into Windows Vista's requirements for the actual launch. Assuming that all factors work out on time -- and Windows Vista launches on schedule, which is already delayed to begin with -- a Windows Vista computer should be able to provide its owner with very interesting advantages.

Microsoft has broken down its requirements for the Windows Vista logo program into two categories: Basic and Premium. Don't be confused by Basic and Premium, however, as there are several other versions of Windows Vista that can be "Premium" compliant. The actual names of Windows Vista versions are:
  • Windows Vista Home Basic
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Windows Vista Business
  • Windows Vista Enterprise
  • Windows Vista Ultimate
From the above, the only SKU not eligible for a Windows Vista Premium logo is Home Basic although all of the above are able to use the Basic logo. According to Microsoft, any computer with enough basic specifications can run any of the above Vista SKUs, but those systems that wish to use a Premium logo designation must have certain special specifications met, regardless of which Windows Vista SKU is used -- minus Home Basic. Windows Vista Premium-logo compliancy according to Microsoft:

At a system level, if it includes a device, then all the requirements associated with that device class must be met for the appropriate compliance level of the logo (basic or premium). To qualify for a basic system logo, the devices of a basic system that includes embedded or add-in devices must comply with the basic requirements (if a logo program exists for the device categories). Likewise, to qualify for a premium system logo, the devices of a premium system that includes embedded or add-in devices must comply with the premium requirements for the device category.

The following are requirements for Windows Vista Premium logo-compliant PC and will be mandated by June 1st, 2007:
  • Must have H.264 hardware decoding
  • Must have HDCP
  • Must support multi-monitor support
  • Must have HD audio
  • Must have HD audio jack presence detection
  • Must have Serial ATA 2.5
  • Must have minimum of 50MB NV cache on hybrid HD's with at least 8MB/sec write 16MB/sec read (for mobile only)
  • Must support booting from USB flash drives
  • Must have Windows Vista Green Button on all remotes
  • Must have Green Driver Quality Rating (DQR)
    •     Green score of 7 to 9
    •     Yellow score of 4 o 6
    •     Red score of 1 to 3
Premium logo level PCs must first support Windows Vista Aero user interface. This means included graphics cards or integrated graphics solutions must support hardware DirectX9c. While DirectX 10 will be introduced later in 2007 along with Windows Vista, it is not a requirement. Graphics solutions must also support hardware decoding of HD video codecs such as H.264 and MPEG2 and MPEG4. This ensures that Premium PCs will be able to play back Blu-ray and HD-DVD at full resolution. To ensure that this occurs gracefully, PCs must also support HDMI and/or UDI graphics interfaces. HDCP will also be a stiff requirement and there are other content protection schemes on the way. Microsoft is also requiring that Premium systems be capable of multi-monitor support, allowing the use of two screens at minimum.

Making sure that the high definition experience is carried all the way through, Microsoft is also making it a requirement that all Premium logo systems support Intel's HD Audio standard at the very minimum. This means at least 5.1 channels of audio via analog outputs and S/PDIF outputs. Audio jacks are also required to be able to detect what kind of connection is being used, analog or digital.

In terms of storage, hybrid hard drives are only required for mobile systems using the Premium logo. With hybrid hard drives, a minimum of 50MB of non-volatile flash cache memory must be implemented that is at least capable of writing at 8MB/sec. and reading at 16MB/sec. Other NAND flash memory technologies such as Intel's Robson technology, is not a requirement Windows Vista Premium logo -- at this time. For storage devices, Serial ATA-II must be implemented. This means a minimum speed of 3Gbit/sec and advanced features such as native command queuing (NCQ), among others. This rule will apply to both hard drives and motherboards. Interestingly, optical storage drives are not required to use SATA.

System BIOS and EFI implementations will be required to support booting from USB flash memory sticks. As memory sticks increase in sizes, it becomes easier to backup an entire OS install and more completely onto a USB memory key and take it anywhere with you. Microsoft's Premium logo requires that this be an essential feature.

For Media Center PCs, Microsoft will require that all remotes have the Windows Vista Green button. TV tuner and add-in DVR devices that include remote controls must also comply to this rule too if the manufacturer wishes to claim that the product is Windows Vista Premium compliant.

Finally, Microsoft will be making it easier for users to get manufacturers to take action when it comes to bad driver releases. Often times, an application or game can be completely or partially crippled due to a bug in the driver or just one that is poorly designed. Windows Vista will allow users to vote for the quality of a driver that they install and all drivers that wish to pass the Windows Vista Premium logo program must meet a Green status, which is a rating of 7 to 9. Any driver that is rated below it will cause the accompanying device to fall out of Premium compliancy and the manufacturer must supply users with a fixed driver within 90 days. How Microsoft will enforce this policy remains to be seen, but it's definitely a step forward in creating stable and secure Windows systems.

The Windows Vista Premium logo program ensures that users will get a top-notch experience out of their machine, and is also in place to make sure that manufacturers build quality products. Features such as DQR will help ensure that Windows Vista computers will be a big improvement over Windows XP.


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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By IsDanReally on 6/14/2006 10:43:54 AM , Rating: 2
If you roll you own, it will work fine. Obviously if you want HD-DVD or Blu-Ray to work well, you'll want to be sure your video card had h.264 decoding and possibly HDMI (although I believe that won't affect quality until 2011 or something).


By PrinceGaz on 6/14/2006 6:08:52 PM , Rating: 2
You don't [i]need[/i] hardware-acceleration of H.264/MPEG4 AVC for it to work well, provided you have a fast enough CPU.

Whilst I wish my 6800GT [NV40 core] were able to do the decoding itself, it doesn't matter that it can't because my X2 Toledo clocked at 2.5GHz can handle 1080p with enough power to spare to ensure frames are never dropped (it rarely exceeds 70% total utilisation). It would obviously be better if the CPU didn't have to do all the work, but current dual-core processors from AMD are already powerful enough, and Intel's C2D should also be able to handle 1080p quite easily.

I doubt HDCP will ever be enforced, or by the time it is, it will have been cracked and anyone with non-HDCP compliant hardware will be able to bypass it easily.


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