Poor Nigel...he planned to do a Hardware Evolution presentation at TechEd Australia with a view to the future - Only part of his presentation got reported on and now there some concern with the ire of the worldwide technical community upon him. Even Scoble was concerned. Its all about the Windows Vista stuff he (apparently) said...
Hes what he meant. The purpose of that presentation was to talk about hardware evolution over the last 12 months with a view to looking forwards for the next 12 months. In it he talked about optimal hardware requirements for your future considerations such as Multi Core, 64Bit Procs, SATA II and PCI Express and some of the things that Vista will do with the hardware when it releases. It wasnt a general statement about the minimum requirements for Vista at all. So lets be clear now.
Vista will not have the massive hardware requirements alluded to in those articles and Yes it will likely (and big huge caveats around that) run on your current hardware that you have today....that includes your current lower ended video card, your Pentium III and upwards proc, IDE HDD and PC133 memory. The actual requirements are likely to be higher than Windows XP but hey thats likely to happen as you move on.
What Nigel was saying in his presentation was that if youre buying hardware today and want to know about what you should be thinking about if you want it to look and perform the best (ie: not the minimum spec) is to look at buying boards with PCI Express (because of the extra bandwidth on that bus), support for Dual Core Procs and the use of higher transfer data such as SATA etc. He also mentioned about video cards so Ill cover that a bit more too.
If you dont have a 3D GPU and have, say like a Intel Integrated Onboard GPU, then Windows Vista will still work fine. In those cases it will use the XDDM model for display drivers which is the same as whats in Windows XP today - you will likely see a newer interface but no utilisation of the GPU for rendering the screen. Thats because the Windows XP Display Driver Model (XDDM) never supported the direct use of the power of the GPU and rendered everything as a bitmap. The only apps that took advantage of the higher end GPU's were games and they accessed it directly. It was an architecture that suited the time and power of the hardware it was in.
Move along to todays timeframe. We have graphics cards that have nearly as many transistors as the CPU itself with faster memory and plenty of it - the flat panel screens have such great resolution that the moment you go to full resolution power the text on screen becomes tiny and so the screen doesnt scale - so what happened here? The power of the hardware graphics outstripped what the software graphics could support. In Vista we can now take advantage of that GPU power. We can scale the screen nicely. We can do all the nice effects that games can do. It allows for great visualisation of information. Why would we not want to enable that? So the architecture needed to change to support that...enter the Longhorn Display Driver Model (LDDM). It allows for direct addressing of the GPU and offloads the screen rendering work to the card instead. Nice.You dont need a higher end 3D GPU either. Its not like that requires hugely expensive hardware either. I use an ATI Radeon 9550 AGP card with 256MB RAM and it was $130...thats not an endorsement of that particular card, its simply to let you know what Im currently using to do my demos.
The point here that Nigel was making is this - No, Vista doesnt require lots of hardware to run it but it will use it if its there...so if youre in the market for hardware now, then think for the future and buy wisely.