Nigel Page, strategist for Microsoft Australia, has clarified the hardware needs for effectively running the upcoming Windows Vista. Speaking at Microsoft’s TechEd conference, he indicated the following in response to questions asked.

Vista, we are told, is much more graphics focused. There is a fundamental shift from bitmap images to vector graphics, much more focus on shifting workload from the CPU to the GPU, and will require a serious display card to be included in the machine. A 128 megabyte display card will be good, and a 256 megabyte or better display card will be ideal.

The graphics capability will need to be accompanied by rather large amounts of system memory. Half a gigabyte of system RAM will be usable for 32-bit computing, although 1 gigabyte would be much better. Double that amount is needed for 64-bit computing. DDR3 RAM will be best for unlocking the speed and power of Vista.

Dual-core processors will benefit from Vista. The new OS version has multi-threading very much in mind.

S-ATA 2 hard drives are going to be needed if the capabilities of the new OS version are to be more adequately utilized. Current SATA hard drives almost all use a PATA to SATA ‘bridge’ which makes them effectively no more capable that PATA drives. They offer little more than tidier cabling. But SATA-2 introduces Native Command Queuing, asynchronous completion (the OS can begin an operation before the previous one is completed) and better DMA performance. These features are more important to improved performance than the increase in data transfer speed from 150 to 300 Mbit/s.

The inability of current monitors to handle the copy protection in High definition DVDs, mentioned here earlier has been confirmed also.

Realistically, then, to make the most of Vista we’re looking at needing a dual-core processor system, with 2Gb or more of fast RAM, a 256Mb or better display card, a hard drive better than what’s currently available and, if we want to watch the upcoming high defininition multimedia content, a monitor that doesn’t even exist yet!

But those specifications are for optimum use. They don’t mean that any system with less will be unable to run the OS. The specifications simply mean that systems of lesser capability won’t run it as well. It’s fair to say that we’re back to the same situation we were in when Windows XP was first introduced. Current systems run it but future systems will run it properly!

For existing systems, including all those Corporate notebooks with onboard video, Vista will offer 3 levels of GUI. There will be a ‘Classic’ user interface which looks like XP, ‘Aero’ which makes some use of the GPU, and ‘Aero Glass’ which makes fuller use of the graphics card.

Smart move. Microsoft was frequently scolded for not writing XP to make optimal use of new and upcoming hardware at time of release.
Of course I foresee a lot of criticism now about "Microsoft forcing people to buy new PCs to use Vista", but that's simply because there's a group out there who are very vocal and will find fault at anything the people in Redmond can come up with.

Oh, so THAT'S how they can claim their latest OS starts and runs "faster than ever before".

They simply jack the hardware requirements through the ceiling!

What a chuckle. I remember when XP first landed, I had a spanking new machine just freshly built, and when I started XP up the first time, whoosh! I was impressed...that is, until I installed Win98 on the same machine and noticed they both started up and pretty much ran at about the same speed. I'm sure that, if I had taken the time, I could have measured the difference, but...

okay, sp apart from the OS, what other programs will be able to fully utilize the power of such a machine? heh, Doom 3's got nothing on Vista...

Games not yet, but expect games released late by late 2006 or early 2007 to have minimum hardware requirements beyond that.

High end CAD and videoprocessing software already makes use of resources beyond that if you have them.
I've a friend who recently purchased a dual CPU Apple G5 with 2 250GB harddisks just for that for example.
Remember the world isn't made up out of games...