Microsoft Hardware Blueprint Offers Vision For Windows 8 Tablets

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A Microsoft document that sets out the minimum hardware requirements for Windows 8 tablet devices provides some hints about what tablets running Microsoft's next-generation operating system could look like.

And a published report estimates that Windows 8-based tablets will carry price tags ranging between $599 and $899. With prices for Apple's popular iPad 2 ranging from $499 to $829, the expected price range for Windows 8 tablets means vendors aren't planning on selling Windows 8 tablets as a low-cost alternative.

The Windows 8 Hardware Certification Requirements, posted on Microsoft's web site, spells out requirements for Windows 8 client and server systems (293 pages) and devices (943 pages).

Windows 8 tablets, for example, will be required to have five hardware buttons for power, rotation lock, a Windows Key, and up and down volume controls, according to the document. Another requirement is using "Windows Key + Power" as the shortcut keystrokes for rebooting the tablet, an alternative to the long-used Ctrl-Alt-Delete command on "Wintel" PCs.

All Windows 8 tablets should have -- at minimum -- a 720p camera, an accelerometer, magnetometer, gyroscope and speakers, according to the documents. Windows 8 tablets buyers can likewise expect at least one USB 2.0 port, Bluetooth 4.0 and WLAN connectivity, and tablets with integrated mobile broadband must have GPS radio.

Windows 8 tablets should have a minimum display resolution of 1366 x 768 at a depth of 32 bits, according to Microsoft, and offer at least 10GB of free data storage.

Manufacturers are expected to build Windows 8 tablets based on Intel x86 microprocessors and ARM chips – possibly from Texas Instruments, Nvidia and Qualcomm.

Prices for Windows 8 tablets are expected to range from $599 to $899, according to a Digitimes story earlier this week, quoting sources at several notebook/tablet manufacturers. The question is whether Intel and Microsoft are willing to reduce prices on microprocessors and Windows 8 software, respectively, enough to make Windows 8 tablets more price-competitive. The dilemma, according to the story, is that doing so could reduce gross margins across the entire PC market.

Microsoft began offering a Developers Preview version of Windows 8 at its Build conference in September and the official Windows 8 beta is due in February. But the general release of the new OS isn't expected until sometime this fall.

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