Microsoft this week released the first beta of DirectX 5.0 and announced a strategy to combine this suddenly mainstream multimedia API-set with ActiveX, creating a single "API strategy." The goal is to free any and all multimedia developers from having to optimize their software to specific hardware. The DirectX APIs, for example, allow game developers to write sound and video routines to a single API without needing to create routines for specific video cards and sound cards: DirectX provides an abstraction layer and the necessary performance gains. Now, with DirectX 5.0, Microsoft hopes to bring this level of programming refinement to all multimedia developers, not just games developers.
DirectX has been split into two layers, or levels, of APIs. The existing layer forms a foundation of low-level API calls and will be of interest primarily to games and entertainment developers who wish to really tweak their code for speed. The new upper layer, which includes high-level services, adds support for various types of media streaming and is aimed at presentation, Web, and animation creators