Microsoft Silent on OpenGL Threat

According to a discussion on the OpenGL forums Microsoft’s new operating system (codenamed Longhorn, recently named Vista) will cripple the Open Graphics Library by layering it on top of Microsoft’s Direct 3D library. This single post has bounced around the main technology websites, but my cursory search didn’t bring up any supporting evidence. Everyone seems to be citing this same discussion as the only source of this news.

In light of that, it seems to me that this story is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate. Microsoft has traditionally gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure backwards compatibility with its previous operating systems. How else would you be able to run your old DOS programs in Windows XP? There’s even the story of the extra memory management code in Windows 95 to work around a bug in SimCity. Lots of programs use OpenGL. These programs have to work in Vista, because for every program that doesn’t run in Vista there is a small but significant group of users who will refuse to upgrade. Not only that, but they’ll tell their friends not to upgrade. And they’ll tell their families not to upgrade. And all of a sudden Microsoft has lost a huge group of potential buyers, many of whom don’t even use the program that broke.

But here’s the problem. Nobody at Microsoft has yet said "shut up you raving loonies, we’re not breaking anything." Nobody at Microsoft is even talking about this. Some concerned users are asking about this rumour in comment threads on unrelated Microsoft blogs (like the Internet Explorer blog), but of course they’re only getting "nothing to do with me" in response (which is entirely reasonable of course). Maybe no-one feels this is worth denying. Maybe their real plan is so fiendish in its intricacy that they aren’t allowed to talk about graphics at all. Maybe the graphics team don’t keep blogs and no-one else knows what the truth is. And, yes, maybe they’re not denying it because it’s true.

Until we find out more I don’t think we have a lot to panic about. Breaking standards was Microsoft’s gig in the ninties, but they’re getting better.