June 2005 Archives
June 10, 2005

MacOS X on Intel

Apple

There was a rumor dating back to mid-2002 about such a thing already happening. Back then I posted a comment on this blog saying that for this to happen they need to have most of the applications ported to the Cocoa API, and also prepare to change the business model.

The technical part is relatively easy. Back in the OPENSTEP days their operating system ran very nicely on Motorola 68040, Intel Pentium, HP's PA-RISC and Sun's Sparc. The operating system had support for the so-called "fat" binaries, which could bundle in a single executable code for multiple processors. I haven't seen the new porting toolkit, but I guess a similar approach is employed for supporting Intel processors. Back then you could choose to build fat binaries by simply enabling some switches in the development environment. With most of the applications now implemented in Cocoa, this should be an easy transition.

On the business side I wonder how their hardware business will change. I think on Intel platforms is very hard to keep your hardware proprietary: sooner or later people will find a way to either build their own, or modify the operating system software to run on their hardware. The only reason to switch to Intel chips is to take advantage of all the commodity hardware out there, and have the manufacturers support their components on your operating system. I guess they can build a proprietary chipset, and make their operating system support only that chipset. But even that is very hard, with Darwin out there in source code, people will find a way to compile the necessary drivers and/or the kernel to make MacOS X run on non-Apple chipsets.

I think the only viable long-term strategy is for Apple to sell their operating system for generic hardware, just as NeXT did with OPENSTEP, when it was first released for Pentium. At that time NeXT went out of the hardware business entirely, and became a software company. Will this signal the same shift for Apple? This could mean a head to head competion with Microsoft, which won't probably allow it.

Nevertheless, interesting times ahead...

Posted by ovidiu at 04:10 PM | Comments (1) |
 
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