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CES 2006: NVIDIA: Two-tiered Windows Vista hardware support may split product line

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 0 comment
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Las Vegas (NV) - Revealing more than we knew before about Microsoft's planned two-tier program for computer manufacturers and OEMs, and graphics card manufacturers, a representative of NVIDIA on the CES floor told TG Daily today that Microsoft's plans for "Vista Standard" and "Vista Premium" support programs will indeed create two separate, simultaneous groups of graphics cards, and potentially two classes of computers as a result.

Furthermore, as Ravi Kaushik, NVIDIA's product marketing manager for mobile products, told us, although the "Standard" group will, of course, be capable of running Vista, it was his understanding that they will not feature the "Aero Glass" look-and-feel demonstrated in Vista's preview releases. Only the Premium group, Kaushik said, will provide the texture we've seen to date.

Kaushik's claims go against some of the evidence we've seen thus far. In September, we learned from Microsoft that the two tiers of qualified Vista-supportive hardware would include a mainstream class of components capable of running DirectX 9 drivers, and a performance class capable of running DirectX 10. Both versions of the graphics driver library would be supported simultaneously by Microsoft, we were told by company officials. Furthermore, the language we were told to expect is for DX9 cards and systems to be referred to as "Vista ready," and DX10 components as "Vista compliant." (Microsoft's Web site currently distinguishes the Standard and Premium Vista support groups mainly with pledges that manufacturers who produce Premium level products will qualify for points toward cross-promotional opportunities with Microsoft.)

All existing preview releases and betas for Windows Vista depend on DirectX 9, and all Vista betas also feature the "Aero Glass" look-and- feel. So if, for some reason, Microsoft chooses to omit the textured look from the lower class of Vista, it won't be because they're incapable of displaying it. (Already, some users who couldn't stand to wait the year or so to use Vista's semi-transparent title bars, have installed the "Arrow" skin for Stardock WindowBlinds.)

Yesterday at CES, Nvidia released three new editions of its GeForce Go mobile processor series - the models 7400, 7600, and 7800 - to accompany its existing 7300 GPU. The three models will be distinguished from one another by their performance levels and price point, though NVIDIA has not released specifics. The top-of-the-line GeForce Go 7800 will be driving Toshiba's just-announced Qosmio A/V notebook computer, with the amazing, if bewildering, high-definition HD DVD player and - if you can believe this - Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound. (The unit itself will presumably not come with five speakers.)

NVIDIA's Kaushik told us that all four "7-" series GeForce Go processors will "support" Windows Vista. At least on the desktop graphics side, it is generally assumed that all standalone graphics cards capable of DX9 and with 256 MB of memory will be running Vista with all of its eye candy. Kaushik indicated that standalone mobile graphics chips will soon be going into the 256 MB direction as well, leaving us to conclude that all standalone Nvidia graphics chips from the higher end 6000-series and up will run Vista's Aero Glass. It's a different story with chipsets: While standard Vista is supported, the transparent surfaces and fancy animation are likely to be shut out.

Exclusive coverage of CES 2006 continues throughout the day, from TG Daily and the network of TG Publishing.

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