by Dwight Diercks

Microsoft achieved a major milestone this past week by making Windows 8 Release Preview available to the public, enabling PC enthusiasts to give it a test drive.

While their latest OS may be new to many, we’re already familiar with it.

For starters, NVIDIA has been working closely on Windows for more than 18 years. In fact, when I started at NVIDIA as employee #22, my first responsibility was writing drivers for Windows 3.1, and Windows 95 shortly thereafter.

We helped Microsoft deliver DirectX from the very beginning and have been a leader in driving it forward ever since. We’ve helped implement new graphics features in games, implemented video driver standards, and we’ve developed high-resolution video formats that have helped dramatically change the Windows experience to what we all demand today of a modern OS.

When it comes to Windows 8, Microsoft started talking with us several years ago. And we began in-house development support for it more than two years ago.

The work we do to support Windows isn’t trivial. As our engineers can attest, Windows graphics drivers are extremely complex. Apart from the operating system itself, graphics drivers represent the most feature-rich code in the OS. We’re talking millions of lines of code — as big as the entire software stack for Windows NT.

It’s a serious challenge that requires the resources of a big team. We have 1,500 engineers who have been involved in the effort to support Windows 8 (including x86 and ARM). We pulled out all of the stops in working with Microsoft to ensure our customers and end users get the ultimate Windows 8 experience.

One obvious example of this collaboration can be seen in the maturity of our drivers. Our Windows 8 beta drivers have been available since March, and we’re expecting to release Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) certified drivers for Windows 8 in the next few days.

WHQL, for those less familiar, is a rigorous quality assurance certification that Microsoft requires for all PCs and final drivers before they are released. NVIDIA has three WHQL labs with more than 1,500 systems that test and evaluate hardware and software every day.

Our WHQL labs allow us to certify Windows desktop, notebook and tablets ourselves, saving PC manufacturers considerable time. In 2011 alone, our labs obtained more than 1,000 WHQL certifications, including systems from virtually every leading PC manufacturer.

We are excited to bring our expertise to the new Windows RT platform, to enable a new generation of elegant tablets and notebooks. As the industry continues to look to NVIDIA to deliver fresh innovation, we’ll continue working closely with Microsoft and our partners to create devices that delight users and provide incredible visual experiences.