and Silicon Graphics
are collaborating on a new graphics architecture for Windows to bring 3D graphics down to the desktop and eventually other digital devices.
The companies will combine their graphics programming technologies--SGI's OpenGL and Scene Graph and Microsoft's DirectX--to create a new graphics architecture for Windows called Fahrenheit, as reported by CNET's NEWS.COM.
The focus is expected to be on Microsoft's Windows NT operating system, which is eating into the market share of low-end Unix workstations, such as those made by SGI. Thus SGI will use Fahrenheit to propel itself into the Windows-Intel workstation market by the end of next year.
The Fahrenheit architecture will consist of three levels: a low-level
programming interface that will combine DirectX and OpenGL; a middle
interface based on SGI's Scene Graph technology; and a high-end set of
extensions, the first of which will be a large-scale visualization model.
Scene Graph and its extensions won't be ready until next year, and the
foundation of Fahrenheit, the low-level API, won't be ready until the year
2000, which makes adoption of the technology far short of a sure thing,
according to one industry analyst.
"This is so far off as to be irrelevant for the time being," said Stephan
Somogyi, principal of technology consultancy Gyroscope. "By that time, Merced
should be shipping in machines, and the world will be a very different
Merced is Intel's next-generation 64-bit processor, due in 1999, first in
servers and high-end workstations. When the low-level API is released in
2000, Scene Graph and its extensions will be reworked to run on the forthcoming chip. Until then, Scene Graph will run on top of DirectX and OpenGL.
Intel did not participate in today's announcement, although officials from both SGI and Microsoft said that they will work with the chipmaking giant to optimize the Fahrenheit low-level API for the Intel architecture. (Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.)
Last week, SGI and Microsoft said that they are working together to make
SGI's OpenGL 3D graphics technology available to Windows developers by
offering a "driver" kit--essentially enabling software--for graphics chips
and board makers. The kits will be available for Windows 95 and NT 4.0, and
forthcoming Windows 98 and NT 5.0.
As previously reported, SGI has said it will enter the Windows-Intel
workstation market in mid-1998. But the company wants to make sure it can
distinguish itself from other NT workstations, such as models from
Hewlett-Packard or Compaq. The first of SGI's NT-based "visual PCs" will be
ready by the end of 1998, company officials said today.
In announcing their joint work, Microsoft and SGI were careful to point out
that until Fahrenheit is ready, OpenGL would remain the platform for
high-end "professional" development such as computer-aided design, while
Direct3D would be the architecture for game development and other
Microsoft has not made any financial investments in Silicon Graphics,