Although the thought of an "OS" using the GPU made users wary, the concept needed time for general acceptance and that time has come. It is here and now. Windows Vista introduced this concept, but its insanely large hardware requirements that were ahead of its time made it an utter flop.
Today, the hardware world has caught up with the technological evolution with M$ playing Big brother for all that has happening around us. Microsoft needs to be given credit for necessitating the standards and minimum requirements to go up. It has done this to such an extent that even the linux world has started to accept these requirements.
Most mainstream Linux distros also require almost the same level of hardware requirements as Windows in order for the user to utilise all the features that the OS offers.
Now, Microsoft is trying to improve the visuals in Windows 7 by working with hardware makers on a software interface that maximizes the use of graphics cards. With the release of Windows 7 comes the latest iteration of its API for multimedia - The DirectX 11. This allows the OS to take advantage of the latest hardware with utmost efficiency.
The eye-candy that comes as part of Windows 7 now is a given to the end-user. One doesn't have to get special hardware to get this feature. Pretty-much all mainstream hardware support this. And for the über cool enthusiasts, it is not just about the eye-candy. It is about the overall multimedia experience. With the clarity of videos/TV on Media Centre, the realism in games, the ultra-fast response times enabled by the level of detail, the right shade of colour for designers etc. Windows 7 tries to improve all these dramatically.
With the increasing number of cores on consumer processors, DX11 drivers enable the OS to break up the tasks and provide for division of labour effectively. It not only is going to use the CPU but also the massive parallel processing capabilities of today's GPUs for performing many of its tasks that were until now only done using the CPU. This will improve the gaming and High definition experience on PCs by leaps & bounds.
The DirectX 11 enhancements could also encourage more developers to build games for Windows 7 and help the company keep pace with competition. Competition to M$ isn't keeping quiet either. Apple's upcoming OS codenamed Snow leopard has radically changed the base to take advantage of graphics and CPU cores. It comes with built-in support for Open CL too. Open CL is a set of tools enabling the management of parallel execution of tasks. (Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenCL)
"There are plans to make native DirectX 11 hardware from AMD in its ATI Radeon GPUs available when Windows 7 is released" said AMD's Robin Maffeo, a Microsoft alliance manager on a blog post.
As users demand heavier graphics from PCs, it is in Microsoft's best interests to offer an operating system that breaks up tasks across multiple graphics cores and CPUs
Nvidia and AMD have said they would support DirectX 11 and OpenCL. Intel, which offers integrated graphics on chipsets, in June released updated graphics drivers for Windows 7, but it carried support for only DirectX 10.