Microsoft Requires ‘Visual Mark’ for Windows 8 Devices Supporting NFC
Microsoft is requiring device makers to include a “visual mark” for tablets and PCs supporting NFC and running the software giant’s forthcoming Windows 8 operating system.
The visual mark would tell users where to tap two tablet computers running Windows 8 or to tap a phone or other device on a notebook or other PC. The mark will help locate the NFC chip and antenna in the Windows 8 device.
The requirement is only for tablet or PC makers that incorporate an NFC chip in their devices, but the mandate is more evidence that Microsoft has firm plans to support NFC in its Windows 8 operating system. Microsoft is also supporting NFC in its separate Windows Phone operating system for smartphones.
The software giant included the requirement in its hardware device requirements released last month. Device makers must comply with the requirements if they want to sport the Windows 8 logo on their tablets and PCs.
Microsoft at its Build developers’ conference in September made known its support for NFC in Windows 8, with a demonstration of the technology in a prototype tablet.
The software giant previewed the new operating system for PCs and tablets at the event and showed “tap-to-share” applications by tapping a tablet to a contactless card and to another tablet. Windows 8 is a follow-up to Microsoft’s present Windows 7 operating system and will probably be released in the latter part of 2012.
For example, the mark would tell users where to tap to share content or pair devices, such as tapping a tablet to a headset or speaker to automatically open a Bluetooth connection between the two devices.
Users also could tap two tablets together to transfer a video call from one tablet to another, said the chip maker. And there could be such well-known tag-reading applications as downloading coupons by tapping tablets to NFC tags in smart posters or checking in at restaurants, bars or other establishments by tapping tags linked to social-networking sites.
The NFC mark requirement could help avoid a budding problem with NFC-enabled smartphones. Few, if any, of the phones so far have a mark showing users where to tap on the devices. That could be a problem, since the configuration and location of NFC antennas and chips vary among various models and manufacturers, so the NFC sweet spots might be on the upper, middle or bottom of the phones.
Microsoft in its hardware certification requirements said the visual mark is designed to “help users locate and use the proximity technology.” Microsoft defines proximity technology for purposes of the NFC mark as devices that implement the air interface specifications adopted by the NFC Forum. But the mark Microsoft is calling for won’t necessarily match the N-Mark designed by the NFC Forum to indicate the NFC sweet spot on a smart poster or a device.
Blogger and Windows expert Rafael Rivera was one of the first to note what he calls the NFC “touch mark” requirements in a post this week. He said he believes the requirements are mainly targeted at tablet or slate computers, which he said “must have a sticker or similar signage indicating where another NFC capable device can mate with it,” adding: “I bring this up because we’re not used to NFC being visible in this manner.”
In one portion of the certification requirements, Microsoft apparently is mandating that Windows 8 device makers supporting NFC also must receive separate certification from the NFC Forum.
The latter certification would be necessary to ensure the devices meet compliance with the forum’s Wave 1 and SNEP specifications. SNEP or simple NDEF exchange protocol, is a standard for peer-to-peer communication.
While the first Windows 8 tablets won’t be on the market for several months or more, tablets running Android and supporting NFC are expected out sooner, and will be used for many of the same applications as are NFC-enabled Android smartphones.
The first Windows Phone devices from Nokia are expected this year. Microsoft is said to be developing mobile-wallet software for the smartphone operating system.