It's Official: AMD's Mantle Is Doomed

In a previous article about AMD's (NYSE: AMD  ) Mantle graphics API, we looked at two talks set to be presented at the 2014 Game Developers Conference, one about DirectX and one about OpenGL. The conference has come and gone, and the presentations reinforce my opinion that Mantle has no chance of succeeding in the long term -- or any term, for that matter. DirectX 12, Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) next graphics API, was announced, promising Mantle-like performance gains, but the real nail in the coffin for Mantle was the presentation on OpenGL. While DirectX 12 won't be released until late 2015, OpenGL can match Mantle's improvements right now, in a cross-platform and vendor-agnostic way. Without anything unique to offer, and only supported by a fraction of GPUs, Mantle doesn't stand a chance.

Microsoft gets serious, in about a year and a half
One of Mantle's big selling points was that it eliminated much of the overhead involved with Microsoft's DirectX, and it indeed delivered significant improvements in performance in CPU-bound situations. High-end gaming PCs with powerful CPUs and GPUs saw minimal increases in performance, but Mantle's accomplishments were nevertheless meaningful.

The uphill struggle for Mantle was always going to be getting developers to integrate the API into their games and engines, but with DirectX 12 promising to deliver similar improvements, there seems to be little reason to support another API, especially since AMD's GPUs are only in a fraction of PCs.

One interesting point in Microsoft's presentation is that the Xbox One will support DirectX 12, and that is should bring with it an increase in performance. Currently, the console supports a modified version of DirectX 11 that runs with extremely low overhead, which is possible because there is only one hardware configuration to optimize for. The fact that DirectX 12 will improve performance on the Xbox One is quite a surprise, and it means that overhead on PCs, smartphones, tablets, and any other Windows devices will be radically reduced.

Microsoft needs to make sure that Windows remains the standard platform for games, and having the same API span all Windows devices while bringing overhead down to Mantle-like levels is a great way to accomplish that goal. Once DirectX 12 arrives toward the end of 2015, it won't make much sense for developers to implement Mantle.

Why Mantle may be dead before that
If DirectX was Mantle's only competition, then the API would have the better part of two years to gain prominence and acceptance while offering superior performance. But there's a third player in the world of graphics APIs, OpenGL, and it turns out that Mantle doesn't offer anything special at all.

OpenGL has been around for a long time, and while most triple-A PC games use DirectX, OpenGL is cross-platform and the de facto standard on mobile devices. The title of the GDC presentation on OpenGL was "Approaching Zero Driver Overhead," and it laid out techniques currently available in OpenGL that lead to drastic, Mantle-like improvements. The presentation has 130 slides, most of them technical, but the most important slide is this one:

Source: Slideshare via Cass Everitt of NVIDIA

This graph shows the number of objects drawn per second with DirectX 11, the very top bar, compared to OpenGL using the various techniques introduced in the presentation. The details aren't important, but what is important is that OpenGL can improve upon DirectX11 by as much as 1,800%. All of these techniques are available today.

The bottom line
AMD's Mantle may have pushed Microsoft toward improving DirectX, but it gives the company absolutely no advantage going forward. OpenGL can already deliver similar performance increases, and DirectX 12 will do the same when it's released. Developers have no reason to adopt Mantle, especially since it only works on AMD GPUs. The API will slowly drift into obscurity. Mantle is a buzzword, nothing more.

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Read/Post Comments (16) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On March 25, 2014, at 2:23 PM, keeperoftheq wrote:

    AMD has the advantage with DirectX 12.

    .

    The OEM can now go with a lower cost APU or GPU from AMD and save them a ton of money in the process. No need to pay the higher price with Intel or NVidia.

    Google Meet the future of PC graphics: Microsoft reveals faster, console-like DirectX 12 for more info.

    Here is the part I like.

    "AMD's Raja Koduri said DirectX 12 was like "getting four generations of hardware ahead," all at once. Intel's Vice President of Platform Engineering Eric Mentzer shared a similar sentiment, with, "This is absolutely, I think, the most significant jump in technology in a long, long time."

    Think about what this will do for sales of the AMD GPU's and APU?

    BUT MANTLE WILL BE AVAILABLE NOW FOR THE INDUSTRY TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF. DirectX12 is 18 months away. By the mantle will work on Apple products and Linux.

  • Report this Comment On March 25, 2014, at 2:32 PM, leejp wrote:

    This is assuming that the future of PC (or X86) gaming is going to be all Windows....

  • Report this Comment On March 25, 2014, at 4:29 PM, zlat wrote:

    Dear Timothy Green!

    I respect all promotion about OGL, especially if that comes from Intel/Nv/AMD. But as a game developer I'm already know all of this. I think everybody know, well at least the engine programers.

    The problem is that I can support an extra API with minimal work, but porting the existing HLSL codes to GLSL is not so easy and it will need money, human resource, and time for testing. Now we don't have these. That's why Mantle is so useful for us, because it works with the HLSL codes, and also most of the source can be re-used from Xbox One and PS4.

    So Mantle Is far from Doomed. Now this is the only modern API that useful for the PC developers. And my own opinion is that Mantle has a bright future, because the API is still smarter than DX12.

  • Report this Comment On March 25, 2014, at 7:44 PM, longtbt wrote:

    I respectfully conclude that this website

    is quickly losing credibility.

    sorry i wasted my time here.....

  • Report this Comment On March 25, 2014, at 8:06 PM, rav55 wrote:

    Microsoft has a problem. XBOX is foundering, some would say that XBOX is an unmitigated disaster as the API is DirectX 11.

    Of course AMD can offer full support to DirectX 12 NOW. It’s Mantle! How else can GCN enabled silicon run DirectX 12?

    Microsoft is rebranding Mantle to fix the XBOX disaster now.

    "Microsoft adopts Mantle but calls it DX12

    GDC 2014: Completely different because it is not called Mantle, just ask MS PR"

    http://semiaccurate.com/2014/03/18/microsoft-adopts-mantle-c...

    Charlie Dermajian is not often wrong.

    Developing Mantle would be an asset only if AMD could gain a critical mass, if you will, of game developers. That is why the console wins where a necessity almost at any cost, or certainly at reduced margins.

    I can remember when folks rolled their eyes when AMD commented that XBOX would have Avatar-like graphics. Well with Mantle or a low level API they will.

    This also scares the bejeazous out of Intel who is all about maintaining the primacy of the CPU which is becoming the bottleneck for high performance graphics. This was also predicted by ATI in 2006 and is the concept behind how ATI seduced AMD into acquiring them and why AMD pioneered the APU. Mantle also eliminates the mid price point market for discrete graphics cards. The majority of the gaming market is not bleeding edge enthusiasts but rather those folks would would rather pay $80 for an APU from AMD that can compete easily with a Intel/NVidia pairing costing several times that. Intel HD graphics are a non-competitive joke and aren't even a consideration. This is probably the source of the rumour that NVidia may retreat from consumer graphics silicon entirely.

    Hence the end of DirectX; now Intel will not have Microsoft to create the great equalizer called DirectX. And for Microsoft to make XBOX competitive they are going to have to adopt Mantle or suffer the consequences. Hence DirectX12 = Mantle. Why else would AMD already announce support for an API that doesn't exist yet?

    "AMD Demonstrates Full Support for DirectX 12 at Game Developer Conference

    Today, AMD announced support for Microsoft and its revamped graphics application programming interface, DirectX 12, a new "console-like" version of the graphics API that has inspired PC gaming for nearly two decades. During the Microsoft-sponsored panel, DirectX: Evolving Microsoft's Graphics Platform, AMD revealed that it will support DirectX 12 on all AMD Radeon GPUs that feature the Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture."

    http://www.techpowerup.com/199086/amd-demonstrates-full-supp...

    Clearly DirectX 12 is Mantle that is dummied down to be compatible with NVidia GPU. Of course AMD had fully supported Direct X 11 almost a year before Intel or NVidia.

    The gaming industry is all about the visual experience as well as a great story. A good story that looks bad will not sell.

    The old fighter pilot adage comes to mind here; "he'd rather die looking good than live looking bad."

    The game developers are going to line up behind Mantle as they can not afford not too.

  • Report this Comment On March 25, 2014, at 8:26 PM, rav55 wrote:

    One thing is for certain, Mantle certainly has the Wintel/nVidia fanboys in a fullblown snit!!

    That alone is tells the world something.

    Now DirectX "imitates". OpenGL now "rivals" Mantle.

    Mantle IS the metric by which ALL competing API's are now being measured.

    Mantle is far from doomed. In fact Mantle is driving innovation.

  • Report this Comment On March 25, 2014, at 8:36 PM, masterwallstreet wrote:

    In my opinion only, I find this article hilarious. Another wannabe analyst wannabe writer has not the slightest idea of what the heck they are talking about. I find this a BS bogus article in an attempt to bring down the stock. I guess you must be shorting it. In fact Microsoft adapted mantle and called it Direct X 12 with the help of AMD. There is an article about it. If you did your research you would know there is an article about it. Instead you wrote a bogus article. The Direct X12 will not be out until 18 months which gives AMD the lead in this technology. Isn't it possible that as soon as Direct X12 is released the Mantle will be upgraded far surpassing Microsoft version. AMD is a far superior leader in this technology even Microsoft is adapting to their software with the help of AMD. This is the beginning of the Mantle and more upgrades to come. I know this is called Motley Fool maybe you should change Motley Fool to I am a Fool.

  • Report this Comment On March 25, 2014, at 11:00 PM, rav55 wrote:

    It's Official: Timothy Green is a hack analyst and writer.

  • Report this Comment On March 26, 2014, at 12:46 AM, TEBuddy wrote:

    Lets see, your previous opinions were that Mantle is dead because DX12 is coming, but oh yeah, not soon enough, so now you have to believe that opengl is the answer to your nonsense?

    Because opengl has proven to be the API of choice???? But wait lets see, oh yeah, AMD DOMINATES NVIDIA in OPENGL!!!!!!

    And tell me something, why is OpenGL now being brought up to this level of support?

    You are doomed, thats my conclusion. Doomed to wonder the earth clueless.

  • Report this Comment On March 26, 2014, at 1:23 AM, pgerb4486 wrote:
  • Report this Comment On March 26, 2014, at 8:44 AM, FAMO wrote:

    It should be possible to report articles on MF. This article is a very clear and obvious example of stock bashing.

    And writing "It's Official" in the headline is just misleading. None of this is official.

    It can only, and I repeat ONLY be official if AMD sends out a press release where they discontinue Mantle. And why would they do that, when more and more game developers are supporting Mantle?

  • Report this Comment On March 26, 2014, at 9:55 AM, Stuart511 wrote:

    I find most of these writers to be comedians. It is very easy to pierce their non-transparency.....

    Look here: http://my.fool.com/profile/TheBargainBin/info.aspx?source=ia...

    "Stocks I Own:BBY,WU,MSFT,CSCO,SPLS,NVDA,HTZ,NOV "

    I think that tells the whole story.

    Tim, enjoy the 10 cents I just made for you!

  • Report this Comment On March 26, 2014, at 11:54 AM, aprairie wrote:

    Hi Tim,

    Thanks for the interest in AMD. I work at AMD and would be more than happy to talk with you in the future to provide some more context and color on what we have going on over here.

    On this piece, wanted to make you aware of a few things:

    At GDC three new game develop partnerships for AMD Gaming Evolved: Rebellion Developments, Square Enix® and Xaviant.

    Rebellion’s upcoming title, “Sniper Elite III” will have full Mantle API support. Square Enix, the publisher behind the recently launched “Thief”, is currently developing “Murdered: Soul Suspect”, the next game title to continue the tradition of collaboration between AMD and Square Enix. Xaviant’s “Lichdom” will feature support for AMD’s TressFX Hair and AMD TrueAudio technologies.

    Jointly with Crytek, we announced that Mantle will be integrated into CRYENGINE. This is a huge stride for AMD’s critically acclaimed Mantle API, as CRYENGINE is licensed out to more than 35 game development studios, which totals over 50 game titles.

    In terms of DX12, we support a number of different APIs from DX to OpenGL and of course Mantle. Each API is complementary aspect of a great ecosystem, and our basic mission is to ensure AMD Radeon products deliver an uncompromising experience regardless of the API. DX provides a standardized programming interface for GPUs, allowing the same code to work across a wide range of architecture of and products configurations. Mantle provides a lower level of h/w abstraction for developers who want it and need it. We will continue to recommend and support both APIs.

    As the industry moves to embrace the principles of "closer to the metal" API design, it seems clear that the pioneering work we have done with Mantle (based on inputs we have received from numerous developers regarding what THEY want to best bring their visions to life) has been highly influential.

    Drew

  • Report this Comment On March 26, 2014, at 2:23 PM, wownwow wrote:

    Again, "The Motley Fool" has already been "The Mostly Fool" for quite some time and now is "The Surely Fool."

    I read them for the fun of getting to know how interesting these people--staying at the bottom of a deep well and wearing a pair of dark-brown sunglasses when looking at AMD--are :)

  • Report this Comment On March 26, 2014, at 3:41 PM, Uconfan wrote:

    The comments to the articles in the fool forum are usually more informative than the article itself. Mantle is like a young plant in the garden that will bear fruit based on the flowers it has. The above comment with inside information bears this out. Also the comment where the author owns Microsoft and Navidia long. I would bet the author holds AMD short and is privately worried about the stock crossing the 4 dollar boundary with high volume. This is a buy signal my friend. Zacks just upgraded AMD to strong buy, and I will add to my large position this week. Enjoy your lunch with Asrat, AMD will pull a RiteAide move this year as they did with their debt maturities as Rite Aide did. The grass is. Greener on this side, in my opinion

  • Report this Comment On March 26, 2014, at 7:57 PM, geyserdude wrote:

    Timothy Green = Very sad article writer!!!

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