The great thing about DirectX 11 is that it enables a completely new level of realism in games. The bad thing about the technology is that it is only supported by the ATI Radeon HD 5000 Series graphics adapters and, in a few hours, NVIDIA' GeForce GTX 470 and GTX 480. However, it seems that this limitation is ready to be done away with, now that ATI has released its newest OpenGL driver.
OpenGL 4.0, the latest version of the multi-platform graphics API, was only recently released by the Khronos group, but ATI, business unit of Advanced Micro Devices, has already launched the ATI Catalyst OpenGL 4.0 preview driver. This software, although not in its final stage, will enable OpenGL 4.0 support on graphics adapters from the company's ATI Radeon, FireGL, FirePro and mobility Radeon Graphics accelerators, thanks to its integration of an OpenGL 4.0 ICD (installable client driver).
The development has a number of benefits and a few rather significant implications. First of all, OpenGL 4.0 is an open platform API compatible with not just Windows 7, but also the Microsoft Windows XP and Vista operating systems. This is important, because OpenGL 4.0 is actually capable of hardware features like tessellation on the GPU, per-sample fragment shaders and programmable fragment shader input positions and 64-bit double precision floating point shader operations, among other things. This means that end-users will be able to enjoy DirectX 11-level graphics, or at least graphics close to that level, on even older versions of Microsoft Windows, not just Windows 7.
Of course, graphics adapters will still have to be built with these hardware features, which means that only the HD 5000 series cards will reap the full benefits of the API. All is not lost though, as Khronos has also been working on an upgraded version of the OpenGL 3.3 specification, which will enable previous-generation GPUs to use some OpenGL 4.0 features. This is quite a boon, considering that the ATI Catalyst OpenGL 4.0 preview driver fully supports the OpenGL 3.3 specification on the ATI Radeon HD Series and ATI FirePro Graphics Adapters.
The driver may be found here.