Feeds

Mac OS X ARM port by Apple work experience kid revealed

Project sparks non-Intel-powered MacBook rumour fever

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A Dutch computer science student's homework has stirred the old rumour that Apple may ditch the Intel platform and power its Macbooks with ARM processors.

Tristan Schaap's bachelor thesis at the Delft University of Technology described work he did at Apple as an intern: getting the core of Mac OS X to run on an MV88F6281 processor - an ARM926EJ-S-compatible component, made by Marvell [PDF], rather than silicon from Intel.

Written in 2010 after a three-month spell slaving away in the Platform Technologies Group in Cupertino, Schaap's dissertation was embargoed for a year and published in August 2011. The 16-page document was seized upon by AppleInsider.

The document, Porting Darwin to the MV88F6281: ARMing the Snow Leopard, describes his 12-week job getting Darwin - the lower half of the Mac OS X operating system - to work on a single-core 1.2GHz ARMv5-compatible processor. Bear in mind that ARMv5 is not the latest revision of ARM's architecture; the beefy dual-core CPUs in the iPhone 4S and iPad 2, for example, use much more recent spins of the processor tech.

The essay tracks Schaap's problems with ARM's Thumb instruction set and several kernel bugs. However, the boy did well enough to get a job: he now appears to be working as a Core OS engineer at Apple, according to LinkedIn.

Though the embargo on the paper gives it an air of secrecy, it can't be that much of a surprise that Apple is playing around with these projects and testing out their options. And the fact that they gave the task to the work experience kid doesn't suggest that an ARM-based MacBook Air is anything to expect immediately. Porting an OS to another chip system can be a good way to test for bugs if nothing else.

And then OS X already runs on ARM chips - in the form of the iOS operating system on iPhone and iPad. And in that arena there's plenty of space for Apple to innovate on the ARM platform. Apple supremo Tim Cook told analyst Richard Gardner last week that his company had no plans for an ARM-based MacBook, adding that the iPad will satisfy the needs of anyone who would have been interested in a potential ARM-based MacBook Air. Apple's desire to keep the Air high end could mean they'll stick with more powerful Intel chips for their laptop ranges.

Still, with ARM gunning for the high-performance territory as well as the low-power corner of the chip market, it's up in the air. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Be real, Apple: In-app goodie grab games AREN'T FREE – EU
Cupertino stands down after Euro legal threats
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes
Fix issued, fingers pointed, forums in flames
Microsoft: Your Linux Docker containers are now OURS to command
New tool lets admins wrangle Linux apps from Windows
Bada-Bing! Mozilla flips Firefox to YAHOO! for search
Microsoft system will be the default for browser in US until 2020
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
Soz, web devs: Google snatches its Wallet off the table
Killing off web service in 3 months... but app-happy bonkers are fine
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Getting ahead of the compliance curve
Learn about new services that make it easy to discover and manage certificates across the enterprise and how to get ahead of the compliance curve.