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Mac 3D News: Apple bringing Metal API to Mac OS X—Confirmed

Apple said that its new proprietary Metal graphics API will move from iOS to Mac OS X. This move comes as expected and matches Microsoft’s efforts to allow programmers to program “to the metal” with less abstraction and driver overhead, freeing the GPU to unwind its true hardware powers. The net result is super-charged graphics performance. This move bodes well for OS X but will force developers to choose between an array of new and closed graphics standards.

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Today at Apple’s WWDC 2015, software chief Craig Federighi, announced that the Metal API is coming to Mac OS X.

Metal was first introduced for iOS a year ago. It is a way for developers to program graphics applications and games “down to the metal” as the programmers like to say. By reducing the hardware abstraction that comes with OpenGL, applications written with the new Apple Metal API can take fuller advantage of a GPU architecture’s true capabilities.

MORE: Five Things Apple users might want to know about the new Vulkan Graphics API

This development isn’t without some anticipation, nor it is without precedent. Microsoft is doing similar moves as well. Architosh previously discussed the future of OpenGL here when Neil Trevett, head of the Khronos Group’s OpenGL group, spoke to Architosh about the new Vulkan API, designed to do similar things as Apple’s Metal but in a fully cross-platform, multi-device world.

What Apple is Doing

At the WWDC 2015, Apple said that they are taking the graphics stacks and moving them from OpenGL to Metal to render 50 percent faster with 40 percent greater efficiency. Like the Vulkan API, Metal combines the compute power of OpenCL and the graphics power of OpenGL into a single higher-performing graphics API.

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Adobe is seeing an 8x improvement in After Effects (AE) performance. Epic says they are seeing 10x improvement in games, reflecting the performance gains that iOS developers saw with Metal as well. What Metal is doing for Mac OS X is reducing driver-overhead, as explained here in the Vulkan story. The proposed open industry standard Vulkan API does exactly the same thing.

Not Just for Games

Apple said that pro app makers on OS X will see big benefits as well. People like The Foundry and Autodesk are seeing the benefits of Metal, though those companies aren’t showing anything at the keynote. We shall see where Metal will live in Autodesk and The Foundry’s OpenGL based Mac apps going forward.

MORE: Khronos speaks to Architosh about the new Vulkan Graphics API: What it Means

Mac OS X “El Capitan” is available today as a developer beta with a public beta in July. The entire OS will roll out later this fall.