Thursday, June 11th, 2015 Posted by Jim Thacker

Apple to bring its Metal graphics API to OS X


Apple is to bring its Metal graphics API, originally introduced in iOS 8, to desktop Macs. The news formed part of the announcement for the upcoming OS X ‘10.11’, officially titled OS X El Capitan.

Graphics performance gains for Mac users
When it was unveiled at WWDC 2014, Metal was touted as a leap forward for mobile games, with Epic founder Tim Sweeney describing it as “an order of magnitude increase in detail” over alternatives like OpenGL ES.

Apple’s El Capitan news release promises similar things for desktop OS X, including acceleration of “system-level rendering by up to 50% and efficiency by up to 40%” over OpenGL on entry-level MacBook Pros.

The release also cites “up to 10 times faster draw call performance … in games and pro apps”.

But increased work for developers in the future?
That’s an interesting use case to single out, since whether Metal is actually good news for gamers or users of high-performance graphics software is something of a moot point.

In the short term, even allowing for wiggle room in Apple’s figures, it’s certainly an improvement on OpenGL.

But there are now three new rival graphics APIs coming out this year: DirectX 12, due with Windows 10 next month; Metal, due in the fall; and Vulkan, Khronos Group’s OpenGL replacement, due some time in 2015.

Now that it has a proprietary alternative, to what extent Apple will support Vulkan when it finally becomes available remains to be seen, particularly given its patchy recent support for other open APIs.

For graphics software and game devs, that opens up the possibility of a big increase in the work necessary to get software to run properly across a range of platforms: an issue explored in this article on AnandTech.

OS X El Capitan is available in preview for Mac Developer Program members. The public beta will be released in July, with the final version due this fall. Metal is also available as part of iOS 8.

Read more about Metal for desktop OS X on Apple’s developer website