It was brought to our attention that on March 21 Microsoft announced their withdrawal from the World Wide Web Consortium. The W3C examines how to best standardize how the web works, and how best to make sure that Internet contact points cooperate in the future. While Microsoft was only participating since March 13th, it’s interesting to note that Microsoft decided to discontinue participation after discovering that its research into contract language (the language of establishing communication between endpoint on the web) didn’t mesh with the W3C’s efforts. You can read more about in the InfoWorld article.
In a follow-up the Enquirer puts a rather negative spin on the whole issue in Microsoft DirectX killing innovation in which they.. umm…well… “whine” is a good term I guess, about the Microsoft domination of the direction of 3D graphics features (true) and about the homogenization of the 3D graphics card market (also true, but it’s generally a good thing), and about how homogenization will take away all innovation (Just look at NVIDIA’s NVRotate and NVKeystone). I don’t think standardizing on a programmable API is at all bad – programmers will take this to the next level. The trend has been towards higher and higher levels of API’s. Nobody really wants to program at the register level anymore.
Way back at the July 2002 OpenGL ARB meeting Microsoft made an amazing statement – that it has “possible claims” on IP related to vertex and pixel shader programming. Essentially Microsoft claimed they have patent rights relating to the ARB_vertex_program and possible pixel (“fragment” in OpenGL) shader programming. There was some mention of Microsoft offering “reasonable and nondiscriminatory” terms for the license. The exact nature of these claims is unclear, and Microsoft hasn’t cleared them up. They’ve acquired intellectual property from SGI, NVIDIA, ATI Technologies, Intel and others, according to industry observers. “They’ve just been picking it up everywhere,” said Jon Peddie, head of consulting firm Jon Peddie Research. “They have a huge library of intellectual property.”
At that ARB meeting Microsoft’s Dave Aronson hinted that it would prefer an alternative licensing arrangement, and suggested that “other bodies have licensing terms that are more effective in a corporate sense, and we should look at adopting some of those terms.” Hmmm. Now Microsoft has gone and resigned from the ARB. Could this be a precursor to some sort of legal action? If so against whom? Certainly not against the 3D video card manufacturers. (Not if they’re smart). Microsoft has made nice with the chip companies and the result has been stupendous (at least from a programmer’s standpoint). If this stuff makes it out to the consumer level we’ll really see some spectacular effects in the next few years. DirectX 9 and 10 show that Microsoft is learning to talk, listen, and work with the chip and gaming companies. It could possibly be a way for Microsoft to get some cash from those pesky “other” game consoles. A little slice of $US10.3 billion (US interactive entertainment sales in 2002) goes a long way. Time will tell.
We do note that Microsoft does have an open req. for an OpenGL kernel engineer, so it seems that they are interested in some development with OpenGL.
Well, in an about face from previous years, there was lots going on at this year’s GDC. Here are some highlights.
NVIDIA Announces new cards – The GeForceFX 5200 and 5600. Both are DirectX 9 cards. The 5200 is expected to sell starting at $79 MSRP. NVIDIA becomes the first card company with DirectX 9 capable cards in its entire front line.
ATI Announces new cards – They announced the 9200 (DirectX 8.1) , 9600, and 9800 (DirectX 9) cards. Also under-the-radar was incorporation of F-Buffer (fragement-stream-buffer) in SmartShader 2.1, which is supposed to allow shaders of any length without resorting to multipass rendering. These cards compliment the 9700.
3DLabs – not to be left behind – announced the WildCat VP990 Pro.
ATI and 3DLabs announced they are working jointly on our fav shader tool – RenderMonkey! In a not so subtle swipe at Cg, ATI and 3DLabs have teamed up to work on RenderMonkey. ATI will continue to work on the framework and both will work on plug-ins for HLSL and OpenGL’s shader language GLSL. In addition they say they’ll work closely with 3D party vendors to incorporate RenderMonkey functionality into tools – so expect to see RM plug-ins for Maya, 3DSMax, etc. in the near future. Press announcement.
Microsoft withdraws from OpenGL ARB – citing failure for OpenGL to keep pace with graphics features, Microsoft says that it’ll focus on DirectX.
DirectX 9.1 is it – for now. According to Microsoft’s Dean Lester, the next major release of DirectX isn’t scheduled until the release of the next OS (codenamed Longhorn), which is now due out sometime in (survey says) 2005.
In a move that surprised no one, Microsoft withdrew from the OpenGL ARB, citing that it felt OpenGL was not advancing fast enough, and that it wanted to focus it’s energy on DirectX. Microsoft has been less than useful at ARB meetings of late, so it’s departure was felt with both a sigh of relief and not a touch of anxiety.