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Apple unveils shader language, QE APIs

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Apple has published details of its Quartz Extreme extensions, which features a programmable shaders and a new instruction set for creating OpenGL shaders.

If there were any doubts that Apple was less than hardcore about OpenGL, this document should expel them. The PDF [3.5MB] accompanied a BOF (Birds of a Feather) at SIGGRAPH last week.

The Quartz Compositor features a per-pixel alpha channel, and per-window warp and transform. Highlights are the new APIs in Mac OS X 10.2. These include both standard OpenGL calls, e.g. GL_ARB_vertex_program and vendor-specific instructions. Apple is showcasing what it calls OpenGL Shader Builder [p20], which reveals what appears to be an instruction set for creating shaders. Squint a little closer, and it appears that you can compile your programs to your choice of OpenGL extensions and display the results in a 3D window in real-time.

Apple now has the option of promoting the Mac as a development platform: it's possible to take the compiled shaders and run them on a PC with matching hardware. Whether or not it wants to do so is another question.

More immediately, true 3D icons and 3D windows become possible, using GPU hardware acceleration rather than the CPU. Quartz Extreme debuts in Jaguar 10.2, which ships later this month. ®

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