What you get for trusting Ms

Tim Byars (tbyars@earthlink.net)
Mon, 29 Nov 1999 08:40:30 -0800


(I'll bet all those FX houses that dumped their SGI's and Mac's for NT
boxes are jumping for joy over this. Not to mention anyone that wants to
play Quake III)

Posted 29/11/99 12:30pm by John Lettice

MS quietly dumps Windows OpenGL support

=46ahrenheit, the joint Microsoft-SGI project "to define the future of
graphics" has crashed in ruins, with Microsoft to all intents and purposes
pulling its support for OpenGL and throwing its weight behind Direct3D. The
Register has obtained correspondence from the Win2k beta tests which makes
this abundantly clear, and last week SGI itself drew a final line under its
involvement with Fahrenheit.

In a terse note posted on the company site, SGI said: "We have decided to
reduce our involvement in all aspects of the Fahrenheit project, in line
with our decision to no longer make the IRIX version of Fahrenheit
available." Fahrenheit had originally been intended to create a suite of
APIs for DirectX on Windows and IRIX and to incorporate OpenGL. As the two
companies said at the time (December 1997): "Fahrenheit low-level API will
become the primary graphics API for both consumer and professional
applications on Windows. The Fahrenheit low-level API will evolve from
Direct3D, DirectDraw and OpenGL, while providing full backward
compatibility with applications and hardware device drivers written for
Microsoft Direct3D and functional compatibility with Silicon Graphics'
OpenGL technologies."

This is quite clearly no longer true. OpenGL support was pulled from the
Win2k beta some months back, prompting a series of problem reports from
testers who found OpenGL apps were running slow and/or not working
properly. The responses from Microsoft staff do not entirely make the
actual position clear. One suggests that drivers for a particularly
graphics card were pulled because of source code issues, while another says
that "we are not supporting OGL until Direct3D is 100 per cent." Which of
course suggests that Microsoft support for OpenGL would crack on ahead once
Win2k went gold.

A later response clarifies matters further: "No driver that ships with
Win2k will contain OGL support... vendors will have to supply their own
post ship." All of this however fails to make clear the extent of
Microsoft's abandonment of OpenGL and the Fahrenheit project with SGI. But
in an email sent two weeks ago, Microsoft's Philip Taylor (senior in MS
Direct3D) states the position succinctly:

"Do not let your personal preference for the Quake family of games dominate
your understanding of this market. OGL is not strategic for us... as the
last three years of history in the multimedia space have shown... SoftImage
has about 20,000 seats total. And I just about had them convinced to do a
port to D3D before we sold them. Outside of the Quake family of games there
are, maybe, two hands-full of apps that use OGL. Somewhere between 5-10 per
cent. D3D has overwhelming support in terms of titles, yet we have a
serious lack of drivers. D3D drivers are strategic for us."

And Fahrenheit seems to have been a crock, as Taylor tacitly admits: "Two
years ago we had a working OGL wrapper on top of D3D. we missed a window of
opportunity to provide this to the IHV community so they would concentrate
on D3D drivers. Six months ago we missed an opportunity to make something
out of the mess that is called Fahrenheit and turn Fahrenheit low-level
into a driver layer to host both the D3D and the OGL runtime on... If we
could come up with a plan to remove this bottleneck and get to one graphics
driver that would be a huge win."

Anyone interested in pursuing the dream of OpenGL as a standard on Windows
would do well to compare that last paragraph with SGI's sign-off on
=46ahrenheit: "Any questions concerning the current status of, or future
plans for Fahrenheit should be directed to Microsoft."

=46ahrenheit clearly does not have much of a home at Microsoft. As Taylor
puts it, the company is concentrating on "one graphics driver" (the
previous policy had envisaged Direct3D for games, with the addition of
OpenGL for high-end systems), and rather than pushing OpenGL as a standard,
Microsoft will just let the graphics vendors produce drivers independently.

This is a spectacular turnaround from the initial Fahrenheit announcement,
and quite a reversal from SGI's position of a year ago, when it trumpeted
=46ahrenheit's importance alongside the announcement of its NT-based Visual
Workstations. But the Microsoft alliance has clearly not been to the
company's advantage, and in announcing its ending of support for IRIX
=46ahrenheit and a 'reduction' (you can't get much more reduced than saying
don't hassle us, call Microsoft instead) in its overall involvement in the
project, SGI indicated that the rift between the two companies may have
been Linux-related.

Said SGI: "The future key OS platforms for SGI will be IRIX and Linux and
to a lesser extent, [our italics] Windows... While it makes sense to have
=46ahrenheit on all of SGI's strategic operating systems, it makes little
sense to have Fahrenheit on only IRIX and Windows. After much deliberation,
it was jointly decided that Fahrenheit could best continue as a Windows
OS-only product; thus Microsoft will continue the Fahrenheit development

The other obvious alternative would of course have been for Microsoft to
co-operate in a Fahrenheit implementation for Linux, so the end result is
hardly surprising. =AE


Suck it up, tuck it in, and up the dosage.