Metal: Apple may destroy OpenGL and boost DirectX 12

Steve Jobs once declared "thermonuclear war" on Android for claims of Google's operating system being a clone of Apple's own. Whilst Android has since forged its own path, and is often the first to adopt new technologies, iOS remains the most popular choice for game developers due to its great development tools and less fragmentation.

At this year's reveal of iOS 8 at WWDC, Apple introduced the 'Metal' graphics API which aims to bring low-level ("to the metal") access on devices touting an A7 processor or later. Apple promised this would bring vastly improved performance, and the company delivered.

Previous to Metal, Apple used OpenGL as its choice of graphics API. OpenGL is, as its name suggests, an open project which is supported on most platforms. We all know how much Google loves open-source, and it is why support for OpenGL 3.1 in the company's upcoming Android L release was touted on-stage at this year's I/O developer conference.

It is hard to picture a world where OpenGL still has its place in such a scenario.

Apple still supports OpenGL, albeit the now older version of 3.0. This in itself is a hint that Apple wants iOS' vast amount of game developers to start moving from the cross-platform OpenGL to the iOS-exclusive Metal in an attempt to lock them into their platform.

But why would this be a problem for OpenGL when it is still popular on PC and Android? First off, most Android games are ports of iOS which is made easier due to their shared graphics API which will no longer be the case as game developers create titles using Metal. Secondly, developers are looking to promising alternatives such as the upcoming DirectX 12 which is showing incredible performance gains thanks to the support of major hardware manufacturers; Nvidia, AMD, Qualcomm, and Intel.

DirectX 12 isn't yet supported by Android, but Google's rumoured Nexus 9 is due to launch next month and is set to launch with the DirectX 12-capable Nvidia Tegra K1. If mobile game developers switch to Metal, and Android gets less games as a result, Google could switch to DirectX 12 to boost their platform.

Google is sure to push the Nexus 9 as a gaming device. The Tegra K1 is described as a "Console in the palm of your hand" due to its incredible power, and you can bet Google will do whatever it takes in order to be a force to be reckoned with in the mobile gaming space.

This theoretical situation would create an interesting two-horse race between DirectX 12 for PC, Android, Windows Phone, and consoles, and Metal for Mac and iOS platforms. It is hard to picture a world where OpenGL still has its place in such a scenario.

Do you think Apple's Metal API could put OpenGL at risk? Let us know in the comments.

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23 Sep 2014, 4:45 a.m.

DirectX12 is a proprietary API provided by Microsoft. There's no way in hell Android would switch to it, even if Google wanted to.


26 Sep 2014, 10:40 p.m.

That's right.. DX12 is a MS strategy to boost their platforms that I even doubt the PS4 will be getting it (at least at first), PCs and XBOX One will for sure, now on terms of Android it would totally go against its own nature to even thinking going with DX 12... that and like Laurence said: "even if Google wants to." It's up to MS to let them in. Now for Apple and game developers the iOS 8 Metal API is going to boost current and future games for iOS platform, and seeing how fast current games are updating to support METAL I bet the API is "easy" to use/implement besides all the extra benefits for A7/8 devices running iOS 8. So make your own conclusions, iOS 8 + Metal API + more and more games supporting MFi controllers...


29 Oct 2014, 7:07 p.m.

I'm starting to believe "developer" blogs these days are becoming more and more worthless, since most of these "developers" don't have a clue what they are talking about.

Saying Android can use directx just because the hardware happens to be capable of doing so is like saying Apple can also use it in OSX because of the same reason. Google couldn't use it even if they wanted to! Most of your other statements are nonsensical as well. The only console using DX is the Xbox (WiiU,PS3,PS4 use OpenGL derivatives), and metal is for iOS not the mac (as you say in the last paragraph). Seriously...

To answer your question, the only place where metal MIGHT put openGL at risk is the only platform where both are available, which is IOS.

15 Nov 2014, 5:08 p.m.

But there's no such device capable of utilizing DirectX 12. And mostly, since android has yet to announce their API's that could match with metal and will end the OpenGL environment. Delays are mostly inevitable for android. While on IOS and Windows. It's a matter of Releases and updates every weeks or months. Android is surely slow to catch up in terms of technological improvements for improved communication between cpu and gpu. As well as API's.


4 Jan 2015, 8:52 a.m.

Well that's quite a stretch of imagination. Well, OpenGL isn't going anywhere just yet for several reasons:
1.) Open GL is still the primary graphics library on many unix based OS's and last I checked they've been getting some new love from devs. (Humble bundle? etc?)

2.) Well given Microsoft is has been on an open sourcing spree over the last couple of months, I won't be surprised if they decide to open source Direct-X as well. But it's hard to imagine even then, that Google will adopt it.

3.) X-Platform publishing tools like Unity still remain the dominant players in the mobile game dev space especially with indie devs. Unity for instance pretty much will support whatever you throw at it. They even recently announced support for metal saying devs have to do nothing different with their game code.

In conclusion Metal won't change much. Here's what will happen:

The Big players like EA etc. are just gonna make their dev tools portable across OpenGL and Metal and the small players (indies) are simply gonna use middleware which target all platforms. The only reasons why games will first come to IOS before Android will still be fragmentation.


20 Feb 2015, 8:21 p.m.

ever heard of Mantle API?