Managed DirectX becomes XNA

This article was originally published in VSJ, which is now part of Developer Fusion.
Strange things are happening with Microsoft’s DirectX graphics and multimedia library. Recently there has been quick succession of releases, each offering an improved .NET managed class library – Managed DirectX – which allows .NET programmers to make use of DirectX without having to write “unsafe” code or import COM components.

The August 2006 release of DirectX, which included a version 2.0 beta of Managed DirectX, was released with the strange warning that it would not be improved beyond this release. The reason is that Managed DirectX 1.1 is the last full release, and all future Managed DirectX development is to be done using the new XNA Framework – “XNA’s Not Acronymed”. This is now available for download as XNA Game Studio Express, which is an add-on to C# Express. It can be used to build XNA graphics for the usual Windows platform and for the XBox 360. However, XBox 360 applications cannot be commercially distributed until XNA Game Studio Professional is released some time next year. It also costs $99 per year to run applications on an XBox. While the new tool is entitled XNA Game Studio, it can be used to create general purpose applications under Windows, but the XBox 360 supports a more limited range of features that effectively limit the developer to games or multimedia.

At the same time as XNA is being developed, DirectX 10, which was going to be called Windows Graphics Foundation (WGF), is available as a beta. This development DirectX is planned to be a Vista-only graphics framework, and it is still COM-based and seems to lack any managed code facilities. The situation can be summed up as, if you want managed 3D graphics and multimedia use XNA, but if you want the latest in 3D graphics then use C++ and COM.

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