Microsoft: False alarm. We aren't backing away from DirectX

Microsoft: False alarm. We aren't backing away from DirectX

Summary: Microsoft officials say an email sent to some of its Most Valuable Professionals about the company's waning commitment to the DirectX multimedia interface was a mistake.

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False alarm: Microsoft isn't backing away from DirectX, despite an email message the company sent to some of its Most Valuable Professionals to the contrary earlier this week.

On January 30, Microsoft apparently sent an email message to its XNA and DirectX MVPs notifying them that as of April 1, 2014 "XNA/DirectX will be fully retired from the MVP Award Program." An excerpt from this email was posted on the "Promit Ventspace" blog.

The author of the blog is Promit Roy, Chief Technology Officer at Action = Reaction Labs, LLC. (Roy previously worked at both NVIDIA and Microsoft. He also is the lead developer on SlimDX, an open source library for DirectX support in .NET.)

Here's the excerpt:

"The XNA/DirectX expertise was created to recognize community leaders who focused on XNA Game Studio and/or DirectX development. Presently the XNA Game Studio is not in active development and DirectX is no longer evolving as a technology. Given the status within each technology, further value and engagement cannot be offered to the MVP community. As a result, effective April 1, 2014 XNA/DirectX will be fully retired from the MVP Award Program."

Given Microsoft's decision to back away from XNA by not encouraging its use for future Windows Phone apps, and not allowing it to be used at all in developing Windows Store/Metro Style apps and games, I wasn't too surprised to see XNA called out as a Microsoft technology on its way out.

But DirectX? Microsoft's set of gaming/graphics programming interfaces that have been baked into Windows and Windows Phone?

I asked Microsoft about the MVP mail. A spokesperson sent the following statement:

"I can confirm that the original communication sent to MVPs yesterday was inaccurate. Microsoft has issued a follow-up communication to the DirectX/XNA MVPs reaffirming that DirectX is very much an important and evolving technology for Microsoft."

The spokesperson added that "Microsoft is actively investing in DirectX as the unified graphics foundation for all of our platforms, including Windows, Xbox 360, and Windows Phone. DirectX is evolving and will continue to evolve. We have absolutely no intention of stopping innovation with DirectX."

So what happened here? How could that MVP email been so, so wrong about Microsoft's future DirectX commitments? The spokesperson said "it was a mistake, pure and simple."

"Microsoft has people across multiple divisions working on DirectX technologies. We are actively innovating and evolving DirectX and it will continue to be the world’s leading low-level high performance interface for gaming and graphics across Microsoft platforms," the spokesperson added.

In spite of his (correct)hunch that the note to the MVPs was wrong/badly worded, Roy still was quite down on how Microsoft has been handling and communicating about DirectX.

Update: (Thanks @Shmuelie) Roy posted an update with some of the revised wording Microsoft sent to MVPs about DirectX on his blog on January 31. He noted his frustrations around Microsoft's communication policies with its developers still remains. 

"It shouldn’t take a leaked email to force a straight answer," Roy concluded. We journalists and bloggers agree!

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Windows Phone

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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36 comments
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  • I hope so

    DirectX is a great tool and they *should* be innovating and streamlining. It's one of the things that gives Microsoft a great advantage with game developers on their platforms.
    Alleycat5
  • open GL

    open gl is the future used everywhere except MS. This sort of false alarm actually wouldn't be that surprising the way MS is. But it is definitely a core technology that won't be going anywhere.
    drwong
    • I doubt they'll be using openGL anytime soon

      it would help with the "code once, play on any OS" idea.

      >_>

      All vendors love lock-ins.
      Michael Alan Goff
      • Re: I doubt they'll be using openGL anytime soon

        Valve has already demonstrated that OpenGL under Windows offers better performance than DirectX under Windows, and OpenGL under Linux is better still.

        So at this stage, it seems clear that DirectX has started to rot under Microsoft's complacency.
        ldo17
        • Patently false

          Valve only proved that their games aren't optimized for DirectX video drivers at all. They even stated that they can push more performance out of their games - and that they need to tell graphics card drivers to tweak their drivers to their game engine. This goes against the whole reason why we have unified API's. It has already been proven that DirectX is safer for hardware abstraction to prevent critical rendering pipeline bugs that "crash the GPU". Not only that, but it's actually MORE compatible with various hardware while OpenGL was including more backwards software compatibility for older professional 3D apps. And which do you think game developers are prioritizing? Hardware compatibility or software compatibility?

          Also, your comment about "DirectX rot" is complete bull. OpenGL sat on out-of-date technology for years and is only playing catchup to DirectX's superior unified shaded architecture and hardware abstraction.
          Joe_Raby
          • Re: and that they need to tell graphics card drivers to tweak their drivers

            Funny, the card vendors didn't need to do any "tweaking" to get superior results on OpenGL.

            You really expect the card vendors to "tweak" their drivers for EVERY single DirectX-using game engine out there? Do you realize how many there are?
            ldo17
          • I know its not a direct comparison

            but my experience with Linux shows that the direct x and opengl comparisons are similar to the cuda and opencl arguments. In theory opencl should be better, but its easier to get better performance out of cuda, even if is vendor specific and they have inferior cards in terms of theoretical flops.
            Sam Wagner
          • Review the story

            Valve's experience was that the Linux drivers were awful and they needed to take a direct hand in their optimization if they were to rely on a Linux based platform. But the part that many outlets failed to include in their article was that Valve said they went back to the Windows drivers and performed the same optimizations to get frame rates so close as to be effectively identical. The same optimizations produced nearly identical results under both OSes. Go figure.

            What this really meant was that other vendors engines were getting more attention from GPU driver developers. Not a big surprise when one considers the sheer number of games using Unreal or other licensed middleware.
            epobirs
          • Re: Review the story

            Here is the story: http://blogs.valvesoftware.com/linux/faster-zombies/ -- review it yourself. Note this part:

            "After this work, Left 4 Dead 2 is running at 315 FPS on Linux. That the Linux version runs faster than the Windows version (270.6) seems a little counter-intuitive, given the greater amount of time we have spent on the Windows version. However, it does speak to the underlying efficiency of the kernel and OpenGL. Interestingly, in the process of working with hardware vendors we also sped up the OpenGL implementation on Windows. Left 4 Dead 2 is now running at 303.4 FPS with that configuration."

            In other words, AFTER doing all the optimizations they could, INCLUDING getting improved graphics drivers, the Linux version is STILL running faster than the Windows version! Also note on Windows it was the OpenGL version that benefited from the improved drivers, not the DirectX version.
            ldo17
          • Where else does Direct X run?

            Besides a Microsoft based platform? Unified sure for Microsoft end result game consumers are tied to that platform to play games.
            ammohunt
        • Yes and no

          They proved that games run better under Ubuntu Linx than Windows (I think 7).

          I think it has a little to do with the openGL and a lot to do with Linux blatantly needing less resources to run.
          Michael Alan Goff
          • Just to throw another example out there...

            ... I get better performance in Portal 2 using a GeForce 8600GTS in OS X than I do using a 9600GT in Windows 7. Same memory amount (512MB), same graphic settings, and there's a performance difference between the two cards.
            Champ_Kind
          • As in

            the 9600 performs better than the 8600 in each respective OS.

            Sorry, my kid's on the mouse today. :\
            Champ_Kind
          • "Proved that games run better under under ... Linx (sic)"???

            That's more than a bit of a stretch, isn't it? There are so many variables, that all you can really say is that this game on this architecture runs a bit faster. And it is fps that is 270 vs 303 (your eye does not see that fast, btw). I think the point the article was trying to make is that Linux can be a good gaming platform, provided you can get better support for drivers (which is sorely needed). When it comes down to it, there is a lot more than fps that will drive the consumers' decision.
            batpox
          • no stretch, it is what it is

            Valve is the king of games.

            When the steam box and the other vendors release later this year with optimized hardware for gaming using Ubuntu, that will be the true test of this solution. Cut Gabe's people some slack. Seriously, the console space for gaming is really stale right now. Plus the fact that tablets are everywhere, and Microsoft's market share in that arena is negligible (I think Palm has a similar share!). Remains to be seen who can pull off the write once run many . My money is on Valve and Linux. Sorry, that is just the way it is. wouldn't count on a Red ring of Death with the Steam box either.
            InstructorJWN
    • true

      OpenGL runs on all platforms so why should I use that proprietary API?
      shellcodes_coder
      • @shellcodes_coder

        Who forced you to? :)
        spicycheeks
  • But isn't DirectX the core tech under WPF/XAML?

    Oh wait.. WPF is being pushed aside for WinRT...
    TheWerewolf
    • You are wrong!

      WPF functionality is still in WinRT, and XAML is now natively supported, not run under .Net Framework.

      WinRT has full DirectX support.

      In fact, DirectX is now the default game SDK API set for Windows Phone 8, NOT XNA, and that's BECAUSE OF WinRT.
      Joe_Raby
  • OpenGL = All platforms

    and Microsoft's COM based Direct3D = Microsoft platforms; so who cares?
    shellcodes_coder