First let’s try to understand how display technology has evolved in Microsoft technology.
User32:- This provides the windows look and feel for buttons and textboxes and other UI elements. User32 lacked drawing capabilities.
GDI (Graphics device interface):- Microsoft introduced GDI to provide drawing capabilities. GDI not only provided drawing capabilities but also provided a high level of abstraction on the hardware display. In other words it encapsulates all complexities of hardware in the GDI API.
GDI+:- GDI+ was introduced which basically extends GDI and provides extra functionalities like jpg and PNG support, gradient shading and anti-aliasing. The biggest issue with GDI API was it did not use hardware acceleration and did not have animation and 3D support.
Note: - Hardware acceleration is a process in which we use hardware to perform some functions rather than performing those functions using the software which is running in the CPU.
DirectX :- One of the biggest issues with GDI and its extension GDI+ was hardware acceleration and animation support. This came as a biggest disadvantage for game developers. To answer and server game developers Microsoft developed DirectX. DirectX exploited hardware acceleration, had support for 3D, full color graphics , media streaming facility and lot more. This API no matured when it comes to gaming industry.
WPF :- Microsoft almost had 3 to 4 API's for display technologies , so why a need for one more display technology. DirectX had this excellent feature of using hardware acceleration. Microsoft wanted to develop UI elements like textboxes,button,grids etc using the DirectX technology by which they can exploit the hardware acceleration feature. As WPF stands on the top of directX you can not only build simple UI elements but also go one step further and develop special UI elements like Grid, FlowDocument, and Ellipse. Oh yes you can go one more step further and build animations.WPF is not meant for game development. DirectX still will lead in that scenario. In case you are looking for light animation ( not game programming ) WPF will be a choice. You can also express WPF using XML which is also called as XAML.In other words WPF is a wrapper which is built over DirectX. So let’s define WPF.
WPF is a collection of classes that simplify building dynamic user interfaces. Those classes include a new set of controls, some of which mimic old UI elements (such as Label, TextBox, Button), and some that are new (such as Grid, FlowDocument and Ellipse).