"Looking at Windows 7 customers, there are currently more than 450 million PCs that will be able to run Windows 8. But we expect that many systems running Windows Vista and Windows XP will also be eligible," said Christa St. Pierre, a member of the Windows Setup and Deployment team, in a blog post.
Older computers will be able to run Windows 8 because Microsoft has intentionally kept system requirements for the OS to a minimum, according to St. Pierre. "With Windows 7 ... we made a commitment to work on many more existing PCs by keeping system requirements low and maintaining compatibility. We've continued that commitment with Windows 8."
[ Learn more about Win 8. Read Windows 8 PCs May Resemble Big Smartphones. ]
St. Pierre did not provide specific system requirements for Windows 8, but it's likely they'll be similar to Windows 7. The latter requires a minimum configuration of a 1-GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of disk space, and a DirectX 9-compatible graphics unit.
It was not clear from St. Pierre's post whether Microsoft will offer upgrade pricing for XP and Vista users. A company spokesperson said she was unable to provide further details.
St. Pierre also provided new information about the Windows 8 setup and installation process, which promises to be the slickest yet for Microsoft operating systems. Most significantly, Microsoft has created an end-to-end online upgrade system that users can employ to set up and install Windows 8. Among other things, it will eliminate the time consuming and frustrating process of typing in lengthy authorization keys.
"With our Web setup experience, we actually 'pre-key' the setup image that is downloaded to a unique user, which means that you don't have to type in the 25-digit product key when you install," said St. Pierre.
For Windows 8, Microsoft has also combined Upgrade Advisor, Setup, and Windows Easy Transfer into a single application. "We've folded them together into one fast and fluid experience," said St. Pierre. The app will also tell users which version of Windows 8 is most suitable for their system.
Microsoft has yet to release a ship date for Windows 8, though many observers expect it to be released in mid to late 2012. The head of Nokia France recently told a newspaper that his company would have a Windows 8 tablet by next summer.
When it does arrive, Windows 8 will be forked into two architectures--one for traditional X86 desktops and laptops, and one for tablets that use chips based on ARM's system-on-a-chip design. To facilitate tablet use, Windows 8 borrows Windows Phone's Metro interface, which features touch-friendly icons called Live Tiles.
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