Mac OS X 10.3 ‘Panther’ will not be a 64-bit operating system

“Mac OS X 10.3, aka Panther, will not be a 64-bit operating system, despite running on a 64-bit processor, the PowerPC 970 aka the G5,” Tony Smith reports for The Register. “Instead, the next major release of the Mac operating system will be a hybrid, much like version 10.2.7, codenamed ‘Smeagol’, which Apple has running on its pre-production Power Mac G5 machines and with which it will almost certainly ship production units.”

Smith continues, “Smeagol is a 32-bit operating system, though certain libraries and other elements have been recoded to allow applications – and the OS itself – to make use of the 64-bit addressing and datapaths, sources close to Apple said. For example, that’s how the Power Mac G5 is able to support at least 8GB of memory, double the 32-bit limit of 4GB. Panther will adopt the same approach.”

“The bottom line is that it may be some time before Mac OS X goes truly 64-bit, and if it happens anywhere in the product line, it’s most likely to be within the Xserve server line. It is not yet known whether the Server version of Panther will be offered in a 64-bit form,” Smith reports.

Full article here.


  1. Who lets all of these people write uninformed articles and ..well, the replies are rarely any better.

    The article makes ASSUMPTIONS about Mac OS based solely upon the PC 790 spec sheet.

    There is no way to know what percentage of Panther will take advantage of the 64-bit architecture .

    Then, as they build an assumption upon a previous assumption, they forecast that once Apple goes all 64-bit OS that “It’s a classic industry conundrum: balancing the need to pull users forward to gain the benefit of new or more advanced technology with the damage that can be done by forcing an unwilling migration.”

    Regardless of major revisions in Mac OS, they never leave the old aps in the dark. I see no reason why the new 64-bit OS can’t translate the 32-bit code before feeding it to the CPU. If a person can emulate a Pentium 4 on a Mac (sometimes with better performance than the original), having an OS continue to run older aps is not much of a hurdle.

    The author(s) are obviously viewing this impending transition through Microsoft/Intel glasses and history. These IT Chicken Littles are simply drumming up false reasons for people to stay with their buggy Microsoft servers.

  2. Yeah, shock horror, Mac OS X Panther won’t be completely 64 bit. Yes, this is pretty much fact. I heard it from an Apple rep during a presentation to system administrators.

    Some applications just don’t need 64 bit. I won’t ever see anything near 4294967296�. Let alone 18446744073709551616�. So it doesn’t make sense if you make a 64 bit financial application for home users. The investment in making it 64 bit, would better go to making it faster or something like that.

    Talking about speed. The PPC970 runs 32 bit code at native speeds. No emulation or “switches”. A completely 64 bit OS won’t be faster than a 64/32 bit OS on the PPC970. More so, the overhead would slow it down.

    But, Panther will allow you to have 64 bit applications running on it, and some libraries will be optimised for 64 bit operation (math libraries being a good example).

    The speed increase normal users will get, comes from the huge bandwidth increase (the 1GHz bus, serial ata, dual channel ddr ram, agp 8x). Not from the 64 bitness of the processor.

  3. The Register is usually better than this. The whole article about Panther is based upon assumptions made about the 970 chip.

    Additionally a pure error was made: “The PowerPC architecture was always defined as a 64-bit environment – 32-bit operation was defined as a sub-set of that environment.” This statement is false. The initial PowerPC was a 32 bit chip with the design explicitly being able to go to 64 bit at some time in the future.

    The PowerPC was derived from a combination of IBM’s first single chip version of its first POWER chip set (Performace Optimized With Enhanced RISC was originally a 5-7 chip set, depending on the version) combined with the best parts of Motorola’s 88000 chip set. The POWER chip had the compute capabilities, some very nice throughput features and was a 32 bit chip with a 48 bit address space. The 88000 was a poor attempt at a 32 bit RISC engine from Motorola, but it had an extensible internal bus, i.e., it was designed from the beginning to allow functional units to be added to the core (e.g., a graphics processing unit).

    The initial PowerPC (the 601) was supposedly the best of both chips. It was designed as a 32 bit processor, but with the inherent, designed-in capability to go to 64 bits at some time in the future.

    Because the PowerPC was designed from the beginning with the ability to add functional units things like AltiVec could be added without completely redesigning it. Because the PowerPC was designed with the ability to go to 64 bit things like the 970 are possible without completely redesigning it. (Though I might argue the 970 is more POWER like than PowerPC like.)

    From day one the PowerPC was designed to have a great longevity. Hopefully, IBM will fulfill that and we will see a 980 within a year or so and a 990 within a year or so after that!

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