The Redmond, Washington-based software titan unveiled today its new 3D graphics software developers kit, called Chromeffects and code-named Chrome. It will be available for download August 17 free of charge for software developers.
Chromeffects is an add-on for the Windows 98 operating system that allows high-powered PCs to play 3D graphics and video either through a Web browser or in separate player software.
Initially, the technology could be used for "hi-fi" ads that have flashing text and other animation, or it could be used to generate user interface enhancements for Web-based applications. Later versions of Chromeffects will have the ability to be used for representing databases in 3D, Microsoft executives said.
The new software takes advantage of Direct3D, the Microsoft 3D graphics application programming interface that's native to Windows 98, and gives CD-ROM, DVD, and Web developers a software layer that understands 3D commands and plays them back.
Chromeffects clears a path for Web designers to create DirectX-powered 3D images or features in normal HTML pages, freeing designers from having to write directly to DirectX APIs.
Users will also get faster downloads, but they will need a 350-MHz PC Pentium II or better machine with Accelerated Graphics Port graphics processing to take advantage of the new software.
"Over next 12 months, our projections show that 55 to 60 million units capable of running Chromeffects will be shipped," said Eric Engstrom, general manager of multimedia at Microsoft.
Microsoft made the announcement at Siggraph in Orlando, Florida, an annual conference for the graphics industry taking place this week. A slew of graphic software vendors quickly jumped on the Chromeffects bandwagon at the show, announcing add-ons of their own for the new Windows feature.
Among the companies with products for Chromeffects are MetaCreations with its MetaStream technology that allows users to stream 3D graphics over the Internet. Microsoft and MetaCreations struck a licensing deal in June for Microsoft to use the streaming technology. Also on board were Zapa Digital Arts, which anted up a library of Chromeffect's ready characters, and Live Picture, which is offering software for interaction such as zooming with photographs, illustrations, and 3D objects.
Chromeffects will be available in August from the Microsoft Developer Network or from Microsoft Site Builder Network. It will also be sent in CD-ROM format to MSDN professional and universal-level subscribers in the scheduled October shipment.