In the wake of concerns about PCs not being powerful enough to handle the Windows Vista operating system when it hits the streets, Microsoft has launched a program that will identify new computers that are capable of running it when it ships.
A logo with the familiar Microsoft Windows icon will declare a computer "Vista Capable" to indicate that the machine can be upgraded to Vista.
The program currently only applies to PCs that can run the home edition of the operating system, but it is possible that Microsoft will extend the program to business editions of Vista as well.
PCs that can feature the logo must offer at least 512 MB of internal memory and must be able to run Windows XP. The computers also must have a strong graphics chipset that, at minimum, can handle Microsoft's latest DirectX 9 technology.
The emphasis on graphics is likely due to Vista's new look, which Microsoft says will be more graphics intensive than its predecessors.
Microsoft has noted that these requirements will allow customers to ascertain that the computers they buy will run Windows Vista Home Basic, but not necessarily the higher-end versions of Vista.
When Vista's ship date slipped from November 2006 to early 2007, there was speculation that the delay would impact PC sales, especially around the holidays.
Some analysts predicted that consumers would wait to buy new machines until Vista was available so they would not have to purchase the new operating system separately.
Labeling PCs as "Vista Capable" will give users some assurance that buying computers before the OS is launched will not put them behind when Vista finally ships, Microsoft and its partners are hoping. But the new sticker might not be descriptive enough to help, said Gartner analyst Michael Silver.
"Windows Vista's user experience will scale based on the power of the hardware, and users that think they're buying a box that can run Vista may be unpleasantly surprised when some PCs turn out to be incapable of displaying the Flip and Flip 3D effects," he said.
Windows Flip was designed for easier transitioning between applications. The technology will let users flip through open windows using the Alt-Tab key combination to view a live thumbnail of each window. Flip 3D moves the applications into a 3D space through which users can sort windows using the arrow keys or the scroll wheel on a mouse.
The higher-end versions of Vista will include a new user interface, dubbed Aero, which Microsoft is calling a "glass" interface because it can render open windows translucently, making it easier to see what is happening on the desktop at all times.
Silver believes that Microsoft needs to rethink "Windows Capable" to offer better guidance. "Buyers that really want a Windows Vista capable PC need to ensure that what they're buying is capable of Windows Aero," said Silver.