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Apple steps closer to PC-compatibility

Fun for you BSD nostalgics

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The prospect of running the latest Mac operating system on your latest PC has taken a step, leaping from the outlandish to the highly-improbable.

Apple released the source code to its Mac OS X kernel in April under the name Darwin, and a milestone has been reached as developers have successfully booted Darwin inside a Mac-based PC emulator. You can see the results for yourself here, and if you have a Mac and Virtual PC, you can download the binary here.

Of course the crown jewels of Mac OS X aren't going to be running on your Intel box anytime soon: the luscious Quartz PDF-based 2D rendering engine and the Aqua skin remain Apple property. But some cute NeXT-features, such as file system bundles are there.

You might well be wondering, since NeXT's OpenStep OS was running on PCs quite happily (and thanks for pointing out that this really did use Mach/BSD core and not just the development environment) already, what the fuss is about. Well, it's not owned by proprietary owner with limited resources. And given the propensity of well-run free software projects to snowball overnight, great things can happen. And it's worth a look if particularly if you're get nostalgic about the olde BSD-based SunOS.

Apple actually surpassed this milestone itself late in 1992, when with Andy Grove's blessing it ported the old Mac System 7 to Intel hardware. But the sudden defection of project boss and Apple VP Roger Heinen to Microsoft, and Apple's relationship with IBM - it was porting the MacOS to the then new PowerPC chip - saw executive enthusiasm dwindle, and the project was canned.

And as we've noted before, the bits above Darwin are platform independent. So having a core OS that runs on Intel gives Apple - at the very least - a nice bargaining chip. ®

Footnote: Although Project Star Trek has been covered by the San Jose Mercury's Jodi Mardesich and the WSJ's Jim Carlson, we've no idea who should take the credit for first breaking the story. For the record, let us know.

Related links

Darwininfo

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Darwin on x86 - Apple's Intel interest
Apple open source OS to ship on Intel

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