Is Microsoft going Mantle?

Over on the Neogaf forums one of their members has dug up a couple of interesting sessions from the next Games Developer's Conference (GDC) taking place in a couple of weeks in sunny San Francisco. Both of which are talking about bringing Microsoft's DirectX API a lot closer to the metal.

That means giving developers much more open access to the actual hardware that's available inside modern PCs, without hiding it behind layers and layers of performance-sapping software code.

If that sounds familiar it's because that's exactly what AMD have been trying to do - relatively successfully by what I've seen in the StarSwarm demo and high-end Battlefield 4 benchmarks.

The first, DirectX: Direct3D Futures , Microsoft is set to discuss “future improvements in Direct3D that will allow developers an unprecedented level of hardware control and reduced CPU rendering overhead across a broad ecosystem of hardware.”

The second, DirectX: Evolving Microsoft's Graphics Platform , is talking directly about what developers have requested from them. “You asked us to bring you even closer to the metal and to do so on an unparalleled assortment of hardware. You also asked us for better tools so that you can squeeze every last drop of performance out of your PC, tablet, phone and console. Come learn our plans to deliver.”

This isn't something that's going to phase AMD, however, much as it might sound like Microsoft is simply jumping their train. When I spoke to AMD execs out at CES in January they were talking then about their hopes for Microsoft taking on board what AMD had learned from developers and creating new standards because of it.

AMD's Senior Product Marketing Manager, Adam Kozak, was sure there were places that Microsoft could take DirectX to bring it closer to the metal. “There are some legacy things that potentially could be fixed,” says Kozak. “And I think that Microsoft are interested in changing it.”

I also asked Neil Robison, a senior director at AMD, about what he hoped would come from their work with Mantle. ”Will this make Microsoft to make more changes and enhance DirectX?” he replied. “I don't know. I hope so. You could look at working together with Microsoft to make enhancements to DirectX. We believe in industry standards and this is something, as we introduce it, we'd really like to see it become an industry standard.”

That looks kinda like what could be happening.

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.