Microsoft raises minimum requirements for Aero interface

During the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), taking place this week in Seattle, some employees of the software company from Redmond let know that the minimum graphics requirements for Windows Longhorn have increased from DirectX 7 to DirectX 9 hardware. The new user interface (UI), called Aero, will be many times more advanced graphically than the UI of previous Windows versions. However, the sophistication will not be present on every system to the same extent due to the available hardware. The graphics system will therefore use two, or actually three, layers. Microsoft simply calls these layers Tier 1 and Tier 2 or Aero and Aero Glass. In addition, there is the simple, classic look of Windows 2000: layer 0.

The standard Aero interface will take advantage of much of the capabilities of Avalon, the new graphics engine in Windows Longhorn. This requires a graphics card with at least 32MB RAM and an AGP4x bus and support for DirectX 9. The minimum resolution Aero runs on is 1024×768 pixels; a significant increase over the current native resolution of 640×480 pixels. The fact that DirectX 9 will be required for the normal UI qualities in Longhorn is striking given that Microsoft had announced last year that only DirectX 7 hardware would be required for the standard Aero interface.

The second layer, also called Aero Glass, places even higher demands on the system. However, this does mean that the graphical qualities of the system will also improve. Transparency and animation are two keywords mentioned by Microsoft employees in this regard. Aero Glass will require at least a graphics card with DirectX 9 support and 64MB of VRAM, although 128MB of video memory or more is recommended. A third layer, or actually a layer below layer 1, will be the so-called ‘Classic mode’. This layer ensures that the UI will be returned to the level, appearance and functionality of the UI as it is present in Windows 2000. Layer 0 will not require a dedicated GPU.

Windows Longhorn — User interface (click image for larger version)