Secret Apple project worked to port Mac OS X to iPad-style ARM processors

“In 2010, Apple’s Platform Technologies Group (a subdivision of the CoreOS department) spent some time working on a project to port the Mac OS X Darwin kernel to the ARMv5 chipset architecture — the same family of chipsets that currently powers iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad,” Jack Perry reports for iMore.

“While iOS also uses the Darwin kernel, this project involved Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and was left for the CoreOS teams to continue,” Perry reports. “Since Mac OX X 10.7 Lion has since shipped, as have newer generations of iPad and MacBook Air, without any sign of Mac OS X on ARM, it’s unknown if this project is still ongoing or has since been put on the shelf. However, the author of the paper [a Delfte University of Technology alum] is now a full-time employee at Apple, working as a CoreOS Engineer.”

Perry reports, “Mac OS X once ran on Power PC chips, yet Apple had it secretly running on Intel chips at the same time. It only makes sense for a company as forward thinking as Apple to have ARM-compatible builds of OS X in the development labs. So while neither an OS X tablet nor an ARM MacBook Air seem likely, it’s interesting to see further evidence of Apple keeping the Mac platform nimble.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Attribution: AppleInsider. Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]


    1. I think so too. The New MacBookBook Air,
      will be in the FORM of the iPAD yet functioning with a full blown OSX LION on an ARM processor.
      AND MY GUESS will be ready by Feb 2013.

  1. Let’s see how that 4-core ARM Cortex A15 chip performs. I think it’s designed to have 8 or more cores as well as run at up to 2Ghz, so it’ll be interesting to see how snappy it is running OS X.

  2. Can Windows run on these processors?

    I know that’s a dirty word, but Apple switching to Intel processors, and introducing machines that are capable of running both operating systems is a large contributor to Apple’s success today.

    I’ve had my MacBook Pro for less than a month now (first new computer since PowerBook), and I’ve got to say, it’s very cool to be able to run Windows if need be.

    My company employs a LOT of Macs, but they’re all running Windows, and I know we wouldn’t have them if they couldn’t.

    1. Yes, Microsoft has announced that the next version of Windows will run on ARM processors.

      I feel very confident that Apple has Mac OS X up and running on ARM too.

      Of course, this gives Microsoft and Apple some big leverage on Intel, and the opportunity to move to a cleaner, less-expensive chip with good performance. The tradeoff is that all of the apps must be rebuilt, and third-party developers must buy in to the new architecture. It also raises the question of future virtualization of ARM Windows on Macs, and even iOS devices.

  3. They would be mad not to considering there will be within the year Windows 8 based tablets that will theoretically offer a desktop experience and definitely will play upon that. While such tablets have failed before and Apple’s success has been in limiting the role of the device, they do need to be prepared to respond should there be a positive reaction to them, the interface actually works and additionally as a general trend to be able to introduce as much of the desktop experience as possible and practical while not taking anything away from the experience, battery, size and weight factors.

  4. Evidently the author missed the giant slide from the original iPhone introduction presentation saying it ran OSX. 😮 As for the “secret” intel project…, Next ran on Intel so the ability to run OSX was probably there from the very beginning.

  5. Take a look at what you can already do on the iPad using Logmein! I can already use my Mac or Windows desktop on my iPad using touch control. It would be no problem what-so-ever to do this… It is basically already working. Logmein allows you to use your iPhone or iPad or iPod Touch as a direct Virtual desktop of your own computer…

  6. This Article is total nonsense. I suppose people have forgotten that it was the NeXT Risc technology that because ARM and that Apple is one of the3 companies that own the ARM Architecture. It is likely that OSX (as Darwin w/ NextStep )has been running on ARM since before Arm was released to the market. It is also interesting to know that Apple gets a cut of every ARM device sold. 🙂

    Checkmate from the grave.

    S. Jobs

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