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Microsoft graphics-on-CPU is warped

Vole bows to Intel - again
Sat Nov 29 2008, 16:42

THE NEXT VERSION of Microsoft's core desktop operating system, imaginatively named Windows 7, aka Vista SP2, may contain an interesting feature for devices with low-end graphics chipsets, or even with no GPU acceleration at all.

According to an MSDN document, Windows Advanced Rasterization Platform 10 (WARP10) is due for inclusion in Windows 7.

The document, originally picked up by Custom PC, states that WARP10 will be able to run Direct3D 10 and 10.1 on the CPU, in an attempt to bring improved graphics capabilities to devices with no, or lacklustre, dedicated graphics hardware.

Incredibly, according to Microsoft's own performance numbers, an Intel Penryn-based quad-core processor can run Crysis at 5.69 FPS at 800x600 with the detail at a low level. By contrast, Intel's own DX10-capable IGP only managed 5.17 FPS, making it virtually redundant when coupled with a decent modern processor.

Microsoft's CPU list contains several imaginary, or at least publicly unannounced, processors so the numbers should be taken with a large pinch of salt until results from independent testing are available.

We can't help thinking this is contradictory to one of the main objectives of Vista's (and subsequently Windows 7's) user interface - an attempt to provide a slick, fast, beautified GUI, using all the power a modern GPU delivers.

Devices with such poor performing graphical capabilities, which would be coupled with a low-end CPU and minimal memory, would presumably not be suitable for a size-able Windows 7 deployment, and would be targeted for use with a dedicated Linux OS - or XP.

It's plausible this is an attempt by Microsoft to provide low-end devices with the opportunity to run Windows 7, instead of XP, but surely it would require much more than the ability to run graphics-on-CPU for manufacturers to run the Vista-based behemoth on their less-powerful products.

With Apple's OSX Snow-Leopard purported to provide both GPU acceleration of normally CPU-bound tasks, and an interface that properly utilises the GPU's capabilities, Microsoft's approach seems to be a backwards step compared to the current trend within the industry.

However, it does make sense when you factor-in Intel, upon whom Microsoft seems to bend on one knee at all opportunities.

The recent Vista-capable downgrade fiasco, in which Steve Ballmer is now required to speak about in court, was allegedly due to Microsoft bowing to Intel's demands in an attempt to flog some of it's cheaper mass-market IGP chipsets.

With Intel's Larrabee soon on the scene, which will utilise a many-core x86-derived architecture, Microsoft has seen fit to provide an SDK that may not only help Intel shift its awful IGP alongside powerful CPUs, negating the need for Nvidia and AMD discrete GPUs or chipsets, but possibly provide a thoroughly useful SDK for its emerging unreleased graphics technology.

It must be nice to have powerful friends when you only have a piffling 80 per cent market share. µ

 

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