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Apple open source OS to ship on Intel

Darwin may be x86 compatible, but it doesn't mean MacOS X will be

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Apple looks set to release version 1.0 of its Darwin open source operating system core real soon now - and for the first time the code will be made available for Intel-based systems. On Saturday, Apple's open source development lead, Wilfredo Sanchez, posted a message on the company's Darwin Development bulletin board saying: "Wednesday, the whole thing compiled for the first time for both PowerPC and Intel. That's been my target for the past couple of months, and now I'm just ironing out details. "All of the source required for Darwin 1.0 is now available. I imported the kernel... this AM. That was the last project left." The 'required' indicates that the software isn't yet ready for public release, but it can't be too far off. And the timing is consistent with Apple's release schedule for MacOS X, which has what it calls "final beta" shipping in Spring 2000. Since Darwin forms the basis for MacOS X, it makes sense that version 1.0 should tie in with the full OS' last test release. Of course, this is still some way from a 'MacOS X for Intel' announcement, particularly given the open source nature of Darwin means a port to x86 was always likely to come from someone if not Apple itself. However, with Apple reportedly in talks with a number of PC vendors who have approached the Mac maker with a view to licensing its next-generation OS, Sanchez's comments do take on a new significance. Apple should now be sufficiently secure in the difference between its hardware and others - from a styling perspective, rather than on the basis of core technology - that offering MacOS X to x86 vendors shouldn't cannibalise Apple's machine sales (which is, of course, where it makes its money) and could even be seen as a promotional exercise for MacOS X. You have to ask, though, why an Intel vendor would want MacOS X, rather than Linux. Linux has some clear attractions, but it lacks - for now at least; KDE 2.0 and the Gnome/Eazel project may change things - a solid user-friendly desktop interface. MacOS X can provide that, and provided the likes of Adobe and Macromedia, are happy flipping a switch on their compilers and knocking out Intel versions of their MacOS X applications. That said, there's little evidence that ISVs are targeting MacOS X's cross-platform Cocoa API (aka Yellow Box), which may make licensing MacOS X less attractive. It has to be said to, that if vendors are talking to Apple, the discussions are likely to be little more than exploratory talks with a view to learning whether the companies can co-operate rather than whether they will actually do so. ®

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