New Bluetooth, audio, TPM requirements coming for Windows 8 devices

Microsoft is going public with new hardware certification requirements for Windows 8.1 (and beyond) devices, some of which take effect in 2014 and 2015.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft and Intel execs detailed some of the new hardware requirements for Windows 8 clients that will be introduced in 2014 and 2015 during a session at this week's Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC).


During a session for Microsoft reseller partners entitled "How to talk to customers about Windows devices," Microsoft officials talked about some of the new hardware features that Windows 8.1 and subsequent releases will support.

As we've been hearing at vaious Microsoft conferences over the past couple months, Microsoft is working closely with OEMs on making sure new touch-enabled, lighter, thinner, faster devices with longer battery life, support for "modern" security, connectivity and new sensors will be coming to market. Starting later this year, these machines will make use of the new features Microsoft is building into Windows 8.1, including support for NFC and biometric authentication; new portrait-mode enhancements; and InstantGo (the renamed and updated Connected Standby capability) to allow devices to turn on instantly and keep apps up-to-date.

(A related aside: "Precision Touchpads" also are now available for Windows 8.1 Certification. Precisions Touchpads are required on all ARM based systems and are optional for x86/x64, according to Microsoft documentation.)

There will be new, additional requirements for Windows devices seeking Microsoft certification coming in the next couple of years, Group Manager Lee Sabow told session attendees.

In January 2014, certified Windows systems will be required to support Bluetooth on all devices with Wi-Fi. Front-facing 720p webcams will be required for systems with integrated displays (tablets, notebooks and all-in-ones). And higher-fidelity audio requirements for speakers and microphones will be on the list, too, Sabow said, to help partners who want to "upsell" Lync, Microsoft's unified communications technology, Sabow said.

In January 2015, TPM 2.0 will be required on all certified Windows devices, Sabow said. TPM, or Trusted Platform Module, is a spec and implementation for a cryptoprocessor. More information on TPM 2.0 is available here.

Microsoft updated its Windows 8 certification documentation in late June to reflect these additional Windows 8.1, 2014 and 2015 requirements.

During the WPC session on Windows devices, Microsoft execs reiterated the company's goal, with Windows 8.1, of becoming the number one tablet in the business/enterprise space. From the context of the remarks, it sounded as though Microsoft execs meant all Windows 8.1 tablets combined -- not just its own Surfaces -- would figure in here.

Microsoft has its work cut out for it with improving OEM traction around Windows 8. As Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner admitted during his keynote at WPC, the partner ecosystem was about 18 to 24 months behind Microsoft with Windows 8, resulting in a lack of devices ready to take advantage of touch and some of the other new features in the operating system at the time it was launched in October 2012.

As far as the rest of the "How to talk to customers session," there wasn't a whole lot else that was new. The speakers acknowledged that while about some current and potential customers are no longer confused by the differences between Core-based, Atom-based and ARM-based Windows 8/Windows RT devices, many still don't know the differences. 

Officials suggested that partners ask "three hard questions" when trying to help users figure out which PCs/devices to buy: 1. What the business needs; 2. What IT requires; and 3. What do users want. Partners should try to help customers define what they need from a "commercial device," potentially defining them along the "primary PC," "companion PC," "executive PC," and "specialized PC" lines, the speakers said.

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