Microsoft has been releasing the hardware certification requirements for upcoming operating systems for many years now, and the latest guidelines to be quietly detailed cover tablets running the upcoming operating system, due for launch later this year.

The information was recently spotted by Within Windows, although Microsoft published the documents quietly in December without any further announcement. The information contains Microsoft’s minimum hardware guidelines in order to successfully meet Windows performance, quality and feature criteria to provide an optimum experience using Windows 8.

Some of the requirements make perfect sense, like the NFC “touch mark” concept. In order to successfully pass validation, any tablet with Near Field Communication (NFC) will be required to have either a sticker, or be embossed in some form with the location of the NFC chip to make the experience of pairing it with the NFC readers easier.

Microsoft also requires all tablets to feature exactly five buttons. They are for power, rotation lock, volume up, volume down and a Windows button. The Windows key must be at least 10.5mm in diameter although it is the manufacturer's own preference for its shape.

As Windows users will have become accustomed to over the years, the CTRL + ALT + DEL method will be replaced with the new combination of using the power + Windows button.

The minimum hardware requirements have also been detailed as follows:

  • Storage: capacity must have at least 10GB of free space after installation of the operating system
  • The system firmware must use UEFI, and have secure boot locked down for ARM tablets
  • Network: WLAN and BlueTooth 4.0 + LE (low energy)
  • Mobile broadband: If fitted, an assisted GPS radio is also required
  • NFC: A visual marking of its location on the outer body is required
  • Graphics: Direct 3D 10 device with WDDM 1.2 driver
  • Display: Must be at least 1366x768 pixels at a depth of 32bits
  • Touch Support: It must pass all tests offering at least five touch points
  • Camera: Must all be capable of at least 720p
  • Ambient light sensor: 1-30k LUX capable with dynamic range of 5-60K
  • Sensors: Magnetometer, accelerometer and gyroscope
  • Connectivity: At least one USB 2.0 controller and exposed USB 2.0 port on frame
  • Speakers

Microsoft also requires that all tablets running Windows 8 support no-reboot upgrades of WDDM graphics drivers, as well as a two second resume time from standby. Although only Intel-based Windows 8 tablets are required to do this, ARM models will likely have this feature added as it matures on the Windows platform.

One aspect that will likely cause considerable negative feedback is a mandatory Secure Boot feature for ARM-based Windows 8 devices, preventing users from loading alternative operating systems such as Android. Intel-based tablets will not be required to be locked down in the same manner.

There is no word on minimum processing power, or RAM requirements but more details will emerge as we draw closer to the launch of Windows 8.