Everything you need to know about DirectX 11

Does compute

The Compute shader is another new feature of DX11, but one that Microsoft was obviously not so keen to shout too loud about at a NVIDIA event, touting CUDA at every turn.

This part of the new API is designed to allow developers to easily access the new trend in general purpose computing on the GPU, something that's CUDA's raison d'etre. Gee didn't want to talk about direct competition with CUDA: "they're not going to be identical, but we do target all hardware that's in the market. So it depends what your application is and whether that's important to you."

Microsoft is keen then to point out that the compute shader will run across all the graphics hardware capable of running this latest Direct3D API. Obviously, there are reports of AMD cards capable of getting on the CUDA bandwagon, but Microsoft's version will be all ready to go out of the box.

So, essentially if you want your program to run on all the graphics hardware available use DX11's compute shader, instead of CUDA. Whether one is more efficient than the other we'll have to wait and see.

Sooner than you think, baby

An interesting part of the presentation was the ending where Kevin Gee explained just how soon developers were going to be able to get hold of the new SDK. A preview SDK of DirectX 11 is shipping to developers in November of this year, specced for use on Windows Vista and on DirectX 10 and 10.1 hardware. As he explains: "if you start developing on DX10 and 10.1 today and you optimise your engine on those APIs then you'll be in great shape for DX11 when we actually ship the SDK."

The main software set is meant to be shipping with the next version of Windows: Windows 7. Could this rapid release to the development community mean that the rumours of Microsoft's newest operating system arriving before the touted 2010 timeframe are true?

Some people are speculating that we could be seeing Windows 7 as early as next year, with other insiders claiming an Easter unveiling. Microsoft certainly has been cagier about preview builds of the new OS this time around and there are definitely functional beta builds floating around with a few trusted system builders, but it remains to be seen if such rumours have any basis in reality.

Microsoft will certainly be keen to put the Vista fiasco to bed if Windows 7 is half as good as we've heard it may be…

First published in PC Format issue 220

Good news for gaming graphics why but are the games so expensive?