Microsoft program may ease Vista delay fallout

Windows Vista won't be available until 2007, but a new Microsoft program is aimed at making customers aware of hardware capabilities needed for it.

Even though Windows Vista won't be available until next year, Microsoft is working with hardware partners to prepare customers for its release. Starting next month, PCs with stickers saying "Windows Vista Capable" will be in stores, letting customers know what hardware can be upgraded to Vista once it is available, the company said Friday.

Microsoft and industry partners co-developed what the company calls the Windows Vista Capable PC program to identify machines currently running Windows XP that have the requirements to upgrade to Vista.

To receive a sticker, the PCs must pass certification requirements for the Designed for Windows XP logo. They also must meet hardware criteria that makes them capable of performing well if running Windows Vista, Microsoft said. Those requirements are a modern CPU (central processing unit), at least 512M bytes of memory and a DirectX 9 class graphics processor.

At a minimum, the requirements of Windows Vista Capable PCs will allow customers to run Windows Vista Home Basic, Microsoft said. However, they do not represent the minimum hardware requirements for higher-end versions of Vista, requirements Microsoft said it will provide in the future as the program expands.

Joe Wilcox, analyst with Jupiter Research, stressed the importance for customers of the distinction between PCs "capable" of running Vista and those that are actually "ready" to do so.

"A system that will run Windows Vista may not be capable of using all of its features," he said. For example, Wilcox said a machine branded "Windows Vista Capable" that is a high-end Media Center PC with superior graphics capabilities will be ready for even the most feature-intensive versions of Vista. But if it's a low-cost PC and it has a "Capable" sticker on it, "it will probably run the features of Home Basic but not anything else," he said.

Wilcox added that the Windows Vista Capable program was developed before Microsoft announced Vista's delay, and that the company may have wanted to put it off until once the delay was announced, but could not because the program already was in motion.

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