Rumor: Next DirectX API from Microsoft to allow for low-level access to hardware

In September, AMD announced Mantle, its new graphics API that was designed to offer low-level access to PC hardware. The first beta version of Mantle was released in February as a graphics driver for AMD's Radeon line of GPUs but so far only Battlefield 4 and the Star Swarm demo of the Nitrous Engine support the API.

Now there are new rumors that Microsoft wants to develop the next version of its DirectX API so it can also have low-level hardware access similar to Mantle. ExtremeTech claims, via unnamed sources, that while Microsoft's implementation will be different than the one Mantle uses, the final result will basically offer the same kinds of features for game developers.

The rumors have also been fueled by statements from the company of what it will talk about as part of the 2014 Game Developers Conference in mid-March. One of the sessions has this description:

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.

However, it may be a while before the next iteration of DirectX is made available to consumers. ExtremeTech points out that Microsoft usually releases new versions at the same time it launches a new Windows OS. The last such update was DirectX 11.2 for Windows 8.1, which means that we may have to wait until Windows 9 is launched for what may be called DirectX 12, and that's not expected until spring of 2015 at the earliest.

Source: GDC and ExtremeTech | Image via Microsoft

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RabbitPunchies said,
I hope this means performance improvements for the Xbox One! Will they be updating DirectX on that platform though?

surely the XB1 has a much lower level much higher performing API which will evolve faster than the DX windows branch. After all they only have ONE hardware set to support and can optimize the crap out of it.

neonspark said,
..... After all they only have ONE hardware set to support .....

Today.
Wait until the next die shrink and you'll have something functionally identical but architecturally different.
Pretty sure tier 1 game devs use DX.

As with most things Microsoft these days, wait until they actually deliver and it performs as advertised.

The old tactic of stall the competition with vaporware has always been effective.

MorganX said,
As with most things Microsoft these days, wait until they actually deliver and it performs as advertised.

The old tactic of stall the competition with vaporware has always been effective.

direct X is not vaporware buddy.

neonspark said,

direct X is not vaporware buddy.

No kidding. However the next version that will do what Mantle does is ...

"rumors that Microsoft wants to develop the next version of its DirectX API so it can also have low-level hardware access similar to Mantle."

I think API is the way forward. But we're still ironing out the creases and there is a lot more improvements on the way.

simplezz said,
We already have Mantle, we don't need to split developer attention any more than it already is.

MS is trying to compete, can't knock them for that.

That's like saying we don't need OpenGL to improve.

trooper11 said,

MS is trying to compete, can't knock them for that.

I don't see it as trying to compete. In my eyes what they are trying to do is to create a common API thats developer independent, yet provides much the same benefits as Mantle. Having a platform that's common across the board is very desirable, whether it's made by Microsoft, or not.

umm except it isn't common across the board, thats what mantle is trying to achive as it'll work on all types of hardware and software configurations. it's just nvidia being nvidia, childish goons.

And it likely wont see the light of day on win7 or win8. Where as <insert next major OGL version will with same extensions supported>

AMD is the only company that's on top of their DirectX game. NVIDIA usually releases products that aren't fully compliant with the latest version of DX11. They currently don't have any video cards that supports DX11.2. And most of their cards aren't fully DX11.1-compliant. It only supports most of the features on a hardware level. I really hope they did it because the changes were minor. Something similar happened after DX10.1 was released and although it offered better performance, developers decided to stick with DX10.

Anyway, this will only further fragment the PC video card market and developers will stick to the lowest common denominator (DX11/11.1).

There was really very little difference between 10-11.2. If rumors are true this is big leap. My bet is there will be more developer interest in 12. But it needs to be backported to Windows 8 and or 7. You can't really judge will happen based on the past.

Melfster said,
There was really very little difference between 10-11.2. If rumors are true this is big leap. My bet is there will be more developer interest in 12. But it needs to be backported to Windows 8 and or 7. You can't really judge will happen based on the past.

The same thing was said about DX10 and look what happened there. DX9 still reigned supreme mainly because of consoles. It's all about the lowest common denominator when it comes to developing games. The vast majority of developers out there want their game to run on as much hardware as possible. It'll be even worse if DX12 only works with Windows 9 and up. There's nothing to suggest that Microsoft will back-port it to Windows 7 and 8.

Also, you can look to the past to predict the future. You won't be 100% certain but the smaller the time frame, the more likely you can correctly predict the outcome. Why hasn't Microsoft back-ported DX11.1 and 11.2 to Windows 7? I really hope Microsoft learns their lesson and releases DX12 for Windows 8 and up. Windows 7 would be much better but that's unlikely.

Umh DirectX 9 doesn't reiign supreme. DirectX 10 was way more successful then DX11 at this point. Since Nvidia has much more market share then AMD I suspect they want DirectX12 to succeed. So far AMD mantle has been lackluster as far a results.

Melfster said,
Umh DirectX 9 doesn't reiign supreme. DirectX 10 was way more successful then DX11 at this point. Since Nvidia has much more market share then AMD I suspect they want DirectX12 to succeed. So far AMD mantle has been lackluster as far a results.

How has it been lacklustre? You have gains from 15% to over 100% depending one the hardware. It may have limited support and it's sometimes buggy, but what new thing isn't? I don't know about you, but I'll take my FREE performance bump thank you very much.

Yusuf M. said,

The same thing was said about DX10 and look what happened there. DX9 still reigned supreme mainly because of consoles. It's all about the lowest common denominator when it comes to developing games. The vast majority of developers out there want their game to run on as much hardware as possible. It'll be even worse if DX12 only works with Windows 9 and up. There's nothing to suggest that Microsoft will back-port it to Windows 7 and 8.

Also, you can look to the past to predict the future. You won't be 100% certain but the smaller the time frame, the more likely you can correctly predict the outcome. Why hasn't Microsoft back-ported DX11.1 and 11.2 to Windows 7? I really hope Microsoft learns their lesson and releases DX12 for Windows 8 and up. Windows 7 would be much better but that's unlikely.

DirectX 9 reigned supreme because only until recently the vast majority of the market used XP, not because of consoles.

The same reason why developer support/adoption of DirectX 11.1 and 11.2 (and in future, 12) will be abysmal - because Microsoft needlessly lock their APIs to Windows releases.

Meanwhile OpenGL can do the same job, faster and on XP, Vista, 7, 8.0 and 8.1 without Microsoft lock-in.

Yusuf M. said,
There's nothing to suggest that Microsoft will back-port it to Windows 7 and 8.

Nothing to suggest they won't, either.

People buy new machines with new hardware and new operating systems.
Locking new features to new Operating Systems doesn't affect anyone.

DX9 is IE6 of the gaming world.

It does. Many and I mean many of those anti Windows 8 people you see here and in general will only buy Windows 7 systems.

Gamers are more technical than grandma who gets what comes with her machine from Walmart. They build their machines or order them and select the OS version.

You forget about the MBA's at gaming companies who like marketshare and targeting in pretty graph pies in boring business meetings. They see a small slice and a much bigger one by targeting an older directX.

You also have developers who are focusing on the console first aka xbox and the pc later. These 2 business elements is why directX 9 is so popular and why making a game for directX 12 will be suicide until well after 2020. Many die hards of win 7 you will need to pray the copies off their cold dead hands. Even if Win 9 is great! Fear of change is a factor hence those clinging to XP for dear life today.

I'd rather have DirectX 12 rather then mantle. AMD should just drop mantle and adopt Direct X 12. I think we should not speculate on what microsoft will do in regards to backward compatibity. Its obvious Nvidia is not going to adopt mantle and frankly we don't need another vender specific api.

All the vendors will adopt the new DirectX version once it releases. I don't know where you have the notion from that AMD would not adopt it.

Also, DirectX features are driven by the vendors and not Microsoft. It's NVIDIA and AMD that makes the features and then it eventually gets implemented in the DirectX and OpenGL standards once the reference implementation is there.

In fact, very many of the features that are now standard for graphics cards were once vendor specific.

I never said AMD would not adopt it. I said Nvidia is not going adopt mantle. I just don't want another Physx situation specific to one vender. This is why mantle is bad in the long wrong. I hope Game developers support DirectX 12 rather then another mantle.

Riva said,
Mantile probably sits on top of DX and OGL.

I'm guessing you don't actually understand what any of those things are. Mantle sits below D3D/OGL, that's the point of it - lower level access to the hardware.

Melfster said,
I never said AMD would not adopt it. I said Nvidia is not going adopt mantle. I just don't want another Physx situation specific to one vender. This is why mantle is bad in the long wrong. I hope Game developers support DirectX 12 rather then another mantle.
That happened even before nVidia bought PhysX

Melfster said,
I'd rather have DirectX 12 rather then mantle.
Mantle is available on most platforms while DirectX 12 will only be available on MS platforms. As a developer I really really hope Mantle takes off.

Rudy said,
Mantle is available on most platforms while DirectX 12 will only be available on MS platforms. As a developer I really really hope Mantle takes off.

OpenGL is on multiple platforms, why not use that instead?

Kushan said,

I'm guessing you don't actually understand what any of those things are. Mantle sits below D3D/OGL, that's the point of it - lower level access to the hardware.


Actually they're alongside each other in a way. Mantle can use Direct3D shaders, so you don't have to do everything from scratch. (Probably OpenGL shaders as well, don't know.)

As it's a separate API, it doesn't really sit above or below anything but the OS.

DeathByPenguin said,
Nvidia isn't going to adopt Mantle, because AMD wouldn't let them. Seeing as.. you know.. AMD own Mantle

There's no reason to believe AMD wouldn't license the specification to them or even give it away once the SDK is public. They've shared technology many times before.

Melfster said,
I'd rather have DirectX 12 rather then mantle. AMD should just drop mantle and adopt Direct X 12. I think we should not speculate on what microsoft will do in regards to backward compatibity. Its obvious Nvidia is not going to adopt mantle and frankly we don't need another vender specific api.

Users keep old operating systems around forever now. DirectX 12 would be suicide as you would cut off 90% of users who prefer XP and 7 still. Infact only 3 games support DirectX 11 that I know of exclusively.

XP keeps games on DirectX 9 still with a port to 11.

Mantle is an easier pill to swallow than to upgrade the OS.

DeathByPenguin said,
Nvidia isn't going to adopt Mantle, because AMD wouldn't let them. Seeing as.. you know.. AMD own Mantle

I can't find the article now, which is sods law, but I'm sure I read earlier this weekend that AMD had made Mantle "open source". If so, nVidia could use it if they chose to.

Do you read anything, anyone can use Mantle... nvidia, intel, qualcomm etc anyone all they have to do is build in specific routes etc for there hardware because its low level it needs to match the architectures to get the best out of it. Mantle uses DX HLSL shaders.

The thing is i think nvidia thinks its just a fad and will go away its the reason why theyve gone with project denver, the arm coprocessor to do a similar thing to mantle where drawcalls come in also they have lower level opengl extensions to gain them performance, but there is alot more benefits to mantle than just drawcalls. They may come around one day but i doubt it.

TCLN Ryster said,

I can't find the article now, which is sods law, but I'm sure I read earlier this weekend that AMD had made Mantle "open source". If so, nVidia could use it if they chose to.


It isn't open source, but it is available to other vendors.

People upgrade operating systems by buying new hardware.

Hell, if you want to appeal to Windows users, start making apps for Intel GPUs. Most people use Intel GPUs.

Also OGL / Mantle should merge.

Mr Nom Nom's said,

OpenGL is on multiple platforms, why not use that instead?

I do use it...but I feel like having something better might attract more developers. Personally I think DirectX is better in some ways than OpenGL

Still Windows 9 if history is any guide will be a very slow migration.

It doesn't make sense to port to directX12 at this time for this reason. Mantle would be better. What sucks is the battle between Nvidia vs ATI reminds me of the IE vs Netscape era.

Everyone ignored the open standards and created buggy horrible rendering engines not standards compliant on purpose for lockin instead of working for the better good. It is why IE 6 is still entrenched today in the business world.

Physix - nvidia only after buy out. Cuda - Nvidia only. Gsync - Nvidia only. ATI - mantle (ATI only but offers to open source it). OpenCL (both ATI and nvidia cripple their implementations to focus on proprietary things like Cuda instead).

DirectX would be a solution to work on both but we have legacy users who in recent years have been very slow to upgrade and now afraid after WindowsMe, Vista, and 8, hence XP has 1/3 of all internet users still.

I kind of wished we had a third GPU party out there. This would force everyone to play nice rather than lock ourselves up to a version of directX that hardly anyone will use for many years.

DeathByPenguin said,
Nvidia isn't going to adopt Mantle, because AMD wouldn't let them. Seeing as.. you know.. AMD own Mantle

They've already said, that once they were done with the first version they were going to open it to implementation by anyone who wanted to do so.

Rudy said,
I do use it...but I feel like having something better might attract more developers. Personally I think DirectX is better in some ways than OpenGL

That might have been true years ago back when OpenGL was a horrific mess where it was going no where quickly but the recent releases of OpenGL and OpenGL ES has been pretty much on par with DirectX with the added benefit of it being an open standard that is platform independent.

Zlip792 said,
Competition drives make consumer win...

Neither OEM nor developers aren't able to follow such changes, so no.

Zlip792 said,
Competition drives make consumer win...

Not when it comes to API's. Microsoft only does it to create vendor lock-in and to discourage the use of cross-platform and open standards; as it did with OOXML when there was a perfectly good ISO standard called ODF.

simplezz said,
Not when it comes to API's. Microsoft only does it to create vendor lock-in and to discourage the use of cross-platform and open standards; as it did with OOXML when there was a perfectly good ISO standard called ODF.

Not exactly lock-in when you're allowed to pick which API you want to use.. I have access to DirectX, OpenGL 4.x and Mantle, where am I locked in exactly? Besides, I thought it was all about choice..

Crimson Rain said,
ODF is insufficient for a true word processor like Word.

In what ways?

And it's not like they haven't done this with any other standards, mainly IE, although is has been better the last few versions.

Funny Libreoffice works fine. What does off lack?

Especially true since odf does not have tags like underlinelikeWord97 in it.

Max Norris said,

Not exactly lock-in when you're allowed to pick which API you want to use.. I have access to DirectX, OpenGL 4.x and Mantle, where am I locked in exactly? Besides, I thought it was all about choice..

You can't use OpenGL if you want to write a Metro app. So it seems pretty much like a lock-in.

fobban said,
You can't use OpenGL if you want to write a Metro app. So it seems pretty much like a lock-in.

Well yea if you're going to narrow it down to a platform-specific thing sure... I have to use OpenGL on Android. Vendor lock-in! But seriously.. no. There's already an OpenGL library for Store applications. There's also an Angle library if you'd rather go that route, by Microsoft Open Tech no less. Sorry to burst that anti-MS bubble.

Meanwhile there's nothing stopping you from using real OpenGL on non-Store applications at all.

Max Norris said,

Well yea if you're going to narrow it down to a platform-specific thing sure... I have to use OpenGL on Android. Vendor lock-in! But seriously.. no. There's already an OpenGL library for Store applications. There's also an Angle library if you'd rather go that route, by Microsoft Open Tech no less. Sorry to burst that anti-MS bubble.

Meanwhile there's nothing stopping you from using real OpenGL on non-Store applications at all.


ANGLE is actually a Google project.

farmeunit said,

And it's not like they haven't done this with any other standards, mainly IE, although is has been better the last few versions.

What did they do with IE?

simplezz said,

Not when it comes to API's. Microsoft only does it to create vendor lock-in and to discourage the use of cross-platform and open standards; as it did with OOXML when there was a perfectly good ISO standard called ODF.

what are you talking about? why can't they make an API to ensure better performance with windows OS family systems? why hold back? We all know direct X kicked the living lights out of open GL so much so John Carmack called it the better API. it's their OS. they shouldn't be restricted by anybody.

fobban said,

You can't use OpenGL if you want to write a Metro app. So it seems pretty much like a lock-in.

that's like saying you have to use win32 to write a win32 app and therefore that is bad! really!?. you're doing a windows store app and you're complaining you're locked in to MSFT's API? seriously?

Max Norris said,

Well yea if you're going to narrow it down to a platform-specific thing sure... I have to use OpenGL on Android. Vendor lock-in!

I think you're missing the point Max. If a developer writes his graphics code in Microsoft's DirectX, it will only ever be compatible with Windows. If that same developer writes it in OpenGL, the code will work across multiple platforms. Thus by pushing DX and low level API's that only work on Windows, Microsoft is creating vendor lock-in.

OOXML was created for the very same reason. It's 6000 pages long, references its past versions of office, and has ambiguous proprietary extensions, not to mention the patent issues. Even Microsoft's own office suite doesn't fully implement it, so the chances of anything else doing it correctly is slim to none. Thus vendor lock-in is preserved. All the more proof that vendor neutral standards like OpenGL and ODF should be preferred.

Max Norris said,

Meanwhile there's nothing stopping you from using real OpenGL on non-Store applications at all.

Not on RT. And who knows how long Microsoft will allow it on x86. The point being it traps developers into being platform specific.

simplezz said,
Thus by pushing DX and low level API's that only work on Windows, Microsoft is creating vendor lock-in.

And again, you're missing the point, it's not lock-in when a developer has choices. Don't like DirectX, don't use it.

simplezz said,
Not on RT. And who knows how long Microsoft will allow it on x86. The point being it traps developers into being platform specific.

Yes on RT, see above. And I don't buy tin-foil-hat theories on Windows dropping the compatibility with ~20 years of software. The only ones who actually push this nonsense is people with an anti-Microsoft agenda with zero proof to actually back it up.

Max Norris said,

And again, you're missing the point, it's not lock-in when a developer has choices. Don't like DirectX, don't use it.

That's not how vendor lock-in works. It works by making changes difficult, often prohibitively so, after the choice is made; Thus when a company selects DX, it can't migrate its code if it decides later it wants to support other platforms or different technologies. The same applies to OOXML when a company wants to choose a different office suite other than MS Office.

Max Norris said,

Yes on RT, see above. And I don't buy tin-foil-hat theories on Windows dropping the compatibility with ~20 years of software. The only ones who actually push this nonsense is people with an anti-Microsoft agenda with zero proof to actually back it up.

Actually Microsoft might not even have to drop it altogether. It just has to make it the more unattractive option, and to push the Windows store front and centre; which is exactly what it did in Windows 8.

simplezz said,
That's not how vendor lock-in works. It works by making changes difficult, often prohibitively so, after the choice is made; Thus when a company selects DX, it can't migrate its code if it decides later it wants to support other platforms or different technologies.

It's no different from picking an API on one platform that's not available or the ideal on others. That's proper planning ahead, not lock-in.

simplezz said,
Actually Microsoft might not even have to drop it altogether. It just has to make it the more unattractive option, and to push the Windows store front and centre; which is exactly what it did in Windows 8.

That'll only work when 8+ has 100% market share. Until then, no. (And you're still not forced into using it if you don't want to.)