We recently got confirmation from Nvidia that their Tegra K1 mobile SoC will in fact support Microsoft’s DirectX 12 API. Tegra K1 already supports DirectX 11, OpenGL 4.4 and OpenGL ES 3.0, which makes support of DirectX 12 possible, but not guaranteed. Sure, it sports the long awaited Kepler GPU architecture from Nvidia’s desktop line of graphics cards, but it has taken them quite some time to unify their desktop GPU architectures with their mobile SoC architectures. Even so, Nvidia will support CUDA on the Tegra K1 as well, effectively making it a desktop chip for mobile. It would also mean that the Forza 5 demo that we saw at GDC 2 weeks ago should theoretically work on a Tegra K1 as well as the GeForce 780 Ti Black that they ran it on.
Now that we already know that DirectX 12 is running on Nvidia’s desktop GPU hardware the next logical question is whether it’ll run on their mobile hardware, which led to us asking them about Tegra K1. What this ultimately means is that Nvidia has a pretty good chance of landing the next iteration of Microsoft’s surface tablet with the Tegra K1 as an update path for Microsoft. It will also mean that Nvidia will likely have one of the closest relationships with Microsoft in the development of DirectX 12 for mobile. As Microsoft’s mobile strategy heats up and improves it will ultimately benefit their closest partners the best. However, Qualcomm is still Microsoft’s sole partner on Windows Phone and there may be some friction between Qualcomm and Nvidia once Windows 9 starts to roll out next year as they will be both competing to be Microsoft’s ‘beloved’.
DirectX 12 is clearly one of Nvidia’s biggest hedges against AMD’s Mantle API and gives them the ability to claim performance improvements through API/Software to much of their customer base. Additionally, it keeps Nvidia strong in their strongest market, PC Gaming, which has buoyed their earnings for many quarters as Tegra has struggled. However, people must not forget that Nvidia is also working very closely with Valve to improve their OpenGL drivers in order to minimize overall driver overheard and ultimately get similar or better results in Linux for gaming that they would in Windows. So, naturally, Nvidia is playing both sides, as they should be. Not to mention, if their OpenGL driver performance improves they also have improved chances of gaining traction with Apple and winning over more of their business from AMD as well.
It is clear that the API wars are starting to heat up significantly and that we’ll see many of the SoC vendors supporting both the latest versions of OpenGL as well as the latest versions of DirectX. The real question will be which will ultimately pay off for them in the long term? Only the future can tell.
Original Author: Anshel Sag
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