The Aero desktop effect in Windows 7 (or, more specifically, the Desktop Windows Manager, also known as the Desktop Windows Manager) will make use of the DirectX 10.1 API in order to improve performance and make the desktop experience even more compelling. But where does this leave those without DirectX 10.1 support?
Note: I'll be using the term DirectX 10.1 throughout this post. I should be saying Direct3D 10.1 but people are more comfortable with the DirectX name.
Here's the catch. None of NVIDIA's current GPU lineup - GeForce 8, 9 or the GTX 200 GPUs - fully support DirectX 10.1. Why? Well, the company doesn't see any DirectX 10.1 only games in the pipeline, and doesn't think that 10.1 will have much of an effect on performance.
So, does that mean that all NVIDIA users will need to go out and buy new graphics cards in order to get the full Windows 7 Aero effect? Well, probably not. Here's why ...
Let's take Ubisoft's latest free-roaming first-person-shooter game Far Cry 2 (a game which I've been playing far too much lately ... but that's a different matter). Far Cry 2 supports DirectX 10.1 extensions, but all the capabilities that this offers are also present when playing the game of systems GeForce 8, 9 and GTX 200 GPUs. This is because while NVIDIA GPUs support a superset of DX10.1 features, not all features are supported. So chances are good that Windows 7 DWM will be happy with GeForce 8, 9 and GTX 200 GPUs.
Ad if you're not confused already, remember that DirectX 11 will offer support all the way back DirectX 9 (depending on drivers and what the GPU supports). DirectX 11 will be offered for Vista and Windows 7.
Remember too, Windows 7 is what, about a year away. That's plenty of time for NVIDIA to tweak drivers to offer full Windows 7 support (in fact, you can be guaranteed that following the graphics card driver fiasco that followed the launch of Vista that Microsoft will be working closely with graphics vendors to develop robust drivers.).
Bottom line ... well, it's too early to know for sure, but my guess is that if your GPU (whether it be badged ATI or NVIDIA) supports DirectX 10 then you should be just fine for all the Aero features in Windows 7. It would be far too much of a blunder for Microsoft to slip up and freeze out NVIDIA users.