MS and Intel head for clash over graphics?
Software Satan's alliance with SGI may hold terrors for Chip Satan
Intel and Microsoft could be heading for another clash - over graphics standard this time. Documentation and testimony from the antitrust trial has revealed turf-wars between the two companies over the precise location of the boundary between hardware and software, and the latest move by Microsoft, an alliance with Silicon Graphics (SGI), seems to contain the seeds of further clashes. Intel is currently pushing two workstation standards, WTX and WTX Pro, based on AGP Pro graphics. The company is also devising a new I/O standard, NGIO, to be aimed initially at workstations (Bus wars loom), although that appears to put it in competition with companies other than Microsoft - IBM, HP and Compaq, in fact. But joint development work Microsoft and SGI carried out prior to the launch of SGI's Visual Workstations (Related Story), together with a development project codenamed Fahrenheit, could put Microsoft on a collision course with Intel. SGI quotes graphics speeds up to six times those which can be achieved with AGP, and expects even greater things when Windows 2000 ships with the capability of DirectX to take advantage of built-in hardware acceleration. But the key point seems to be that SGI, while gaining Microsoft's co-operation in the implementation of NT on the Visual Workstations, has also been giving Microsoft a leg-up in high-performance graphics development, and providing it with the tools to build this stuff into Windows 2K. The Fahrenheit project will produce a suite of APIs for DirectX on Windows and SGI Unix, and will integrate Microsoft Direct3D and DirectDraw with SGI technologies, OpenGL, OpenGL Scene Graph and OpenGl Optimiser. The intention, they say, is to support OpenbGL for professional applications on Windows, and Direct3D for consumer applications. At the moment SGI is pitching its new workstations at the high end of the PC workstation market, and the company doesn't want to get involved in margin-slashing food-fights with the likes of HP. But it does look a little bit like SGI is currently selling the only machines which support the next generation of Windows graphics. Which of course begs several questions about future graphics subsystems, who's defining them, and who you might end up paying licence fees to - doesn't it? ®
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