Roughly half of today's PCs won't be able to take advantage of the "Aero Glass" compositor found within Microsoft's upcoming Vista software, due at the end of this year.
The estimate was one of the conclusions cited in a report released late Thursday by Jon Peddie Research, which used the same year-end data to conclude that Intel's share in the graphics market is steadily decreasing.
The fault, Peddie reported, was that the low-cost integrated graphics controllers customers have chosen process the 2D windows of Windows XP and Windows 2000 just fine, but lack the bells and whistles necessary to process the Windows Desktop Compositing Engine used in Vista. About 63 percent of the 203 million PCs sold used an integrated graphics controller, JPR reported.
Aero Glass, a specialized subset of the "Aero" Vista interface, requires a DirectX 9.0c-capable graphics card, which only "performance"-class graphics add-on cards (such as the Nvidia GeForce FX 5900) can process.
After years of delays and several feature revisions, one of Vista's main selling points is the Aero Glass interface. However, as Peddie notes, users already have the ability to start constructing a PC that should be Vista-ready before the OS even ships. Microsoft also said this week that it would reserve its Halo 2 videogame for Vista.
"When [a] user sees a system running Vista on a PC with integrated graphics, and then sees Vista on a PC with a powerful graphics [board] in it, there will be no discussion -- they will go for the better looking system if they can possibly afford it," Peddie said in a statement.
Fortunately, the bulk of the 22.3 million add-in cards sold during 2005 were "performance"-class cards, approximately 13.4 million units or 72 percent, JPR said. In dollars, the 2005 add-on card market was worth around $10 billion, with $2.7 billion worth of add-in boards sold in the fourth quarter.
Only 5 percent of users spring for the highest-end "enthusiast" cards, Peddie found.