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Apple yanks key x86 Mac OS X open source code

Compile-your-own kernels a PowerPC-only affair

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Apple has pulled the source code the underpins key components of the x86 version of Mac OS X's 'Darwin' foundation. The PowerPC versions are still available for download from the Mac maker's open source software website.

News of the shift was broken by Infoworld columnist Tom Yager, who revealed this week that Darwin's repository of open x86 source code now no longer contains driver and kernel content or, we'd add, handy stuff like the BootX start-up engine. PowerPC versions are still available for dowloading.

What's left, on the x86 side, are commands and utilities such as Apple's zero-configuration networking system, Bonjour, along with the results of other open source projects the company has adopted and contributed to.

All of which will disappoint Apple's server customers and folk using its kit for high-performance computing applications. Many of them, Yager asserts, tweak the Mac OS X kernel to regain the performance or throughput Apple's own binaries miss out on in the name of compatibility.

That's not an issue for owners of the current Intel-based Mac line-up, such as the new MacBook, but it may well be an issue for potential buyers of the upcoming Mac Pro and - presumably - Intel-based XServe boxes. As Yager points out, these are likely to be based on Intel's 64-bit next-generation architecture processors like the Core 2 Duo - aka 'Conroe' and the 'Woodcrest' Xeon chip.

It's not hard to see why Apple's made the move: its efforts to stamp on attempts to run the x86 version of Mac OS X on bog-standard PCs is proof that while the company's happy for Macs to run Windows, it doesn't want its code running on Wintel boxes. That attitude speaks volumes about Apple's line on the oft-argued suggestion it ship a Wintel version of its operating system and, potentially, quit the hardware business. Clearly, hardware matters to much to its business model for all Macs are now essentially PCs in fancy cases. ®

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