Back when Windows 7 was released, gamers were introduced to the wonders of Microsoft’s DirectX 11 API but customers who had previously invested in Windows Vista weren’t left out in the cold. Microsoft committed to and eventually released a DX11 patch for Vista which allowed for complete compatibility with this generation’s latest gaming titles. With the advent of Windows 8, it doesn’t look like that situation will repeat itself.
Since Windows 7 is one of Microsoft’s most popular and stable operating systems ever, there are admittedly few people heading towards Windows 8 upgrades. However, in what seems like an effort towards planned obsolescence, the updated DX11 API found in Windows 8 –called DirectX 11.1- likely won’t be ported to Windows 7. This could be bad news for any gamers that can’t stand the Metro UI or other touchscreen-centric features in the latest OS release.
In a forum post on MSDN, Daniel Moth, a principle program lead at Microsoft had this to say:
With DirectX 11.1, WARP was enhanced with (among other things) support for DirectCompute and hence it is one of the accelerators for C++ AMP. DirectX 11.1 is part of Windows 8, just like DirectX 11 was part of Windows 7. DirectX 11 was made available for Vista, but at this point there is no plan for DirectX 11.1 to be made available on Windows 7.
There is however a faint ray of hope according to Mr. Moth: “…should the plan change and either DirectX 11.1 as a whole, or WARP on its own, was made available on Windows 7, then you would have this available to target from C++ AMP. (Aside: the same statement holds true for REF). If the plan changes, you can bet we will be blogging about it (I personally am still crossing my fingers, but not as tightly as I did a few months ago).” So perhaps Microsoft hasn’t ruled out the possibility of backwards compatibility for DX11.1 altogether but it will likely take a small miracle to make it happen.
Luckily, what looks like a long list of features in DX11.1 doesn’t actually represent a significant upgrade over DX11 but there are some efficiency additions that may have a positive impact upon performance in supporting games. If DX10.1 was any indication, game developers may largely pass over this incremental stepping stone and instead focus on optimizing DX11 to its fullest extent.
With DX11 being the current standard among many A-list PC games, a move to a slightly upgraded DX11.1 ecosystem shouldn’t be impossible for many developers. So one has to wonder why, with so many similarities between DX11 and its sibling, backwards compatibility can’t be achieved. According to Hardware Canucks’ sources in the development community, there is no underlying reason why DX11.1 can’t be easily ported to Windows 7 which means the simplest answer is likely the right one. This simply looks like a concerted but subliminal effort by Microsoft to push gamers towards Windows 8. Thankfully, upgrading to Windows 8 (for the time being at least) is relatively inexpensive with the Windows 7 to Windows 8 Pro software going for just $70.