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.