The next version of Microsoft's multimedia programming library--know as DirectX--is due in June and will include new features the company hopes will spur non-game development. DirectX is a set of programming libraries that programmers currently use primarily for games development. It consists of DirectDraw (for fast 2D drawing performance), DirectSound, Direct3D (for fast 3D effects), DirectInput (joysticks and other input devices), and DirectPlay (modem and LAN gaming). The new version adds file formats and services for multimedia authors, entertainment, and communications purposes.

DirectX 5.0 (version 4.0 was skipped for some reason) will add support for the "Talisman" rendering code, Intel MMX and AGP, and the new unified Windows Driver Model (WDM). Other new feature are the DirectX Media Services (for synchronizing events), the Microsoft Active Streaming Format (ASF), multi-monitor support, and USB support. DirectX 5.0 also supports the Java programming language in addition to the C support in previous versions.

Kevin Dallas, Microsoft group product manager for DirectX, says that Microsoft is targeting four key areas with this release: games and entertainment, authoring tools, Internet publishing, and real-time communications. "We're focusing it completely on the convergence of multimedia and the Internet," he said.

Microsoft will ship a beta of DirectX 5.0 to developers this week with a second beta expected in late April. Macintosh and UNIX versions will begin beta testing later this year