Feeds

Mac OS X ARM port by Apple work experience kid revealed

Project sparks non-Intel-powered MacBook rumour fever

A new approach to endpoint data protection

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. ®

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration

More from The Register

next story
PEAK LANDFILL: Why tablet gloom is good news for Windows users
Sinofsky's hybrid strategy looks dafter than ever
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Fiendishly complex password app extension ships for iOS 8
Just slip it in, won't hurt a bit, 1Password makers urge devs
Mozilla keeps its Beard, hopes anti-gay marriage troubles are now over
Plenty on new CEO's todo list – starting with Firefox's slipping grasp
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cloudy CoreOS Linux distro declares itself production-ready
Lightweight, container-happy Linux gets first Stable release
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?