Apple Was Working On Porting OS X to ARM Processors

Illustration for article titled Apple Was Working On Porting OS X to ARM Processors

Apple seems to be doing very well with Intel processors in its MacBook range. But a recently published academic paper reveals that Apple was, at one point, attempting to port its operating system to work with ARM processors.

In fact, a former Apple intern, Tristan Schaap, who now serves as a Core OS engineer at the company, has explained how he was working on a project to get Mac OS X Snow Leopard working on ARM devices, reports Apple Insider. Presumably this project was a speculative investigation into Apple moving to ARM processors in its MacBook range.

The secret project became less clandestine when it was published by the Netherland's Delft University of Technology. Apparently Schaap wrote up a Bachelor thesis on his 12 week Apple internship in 2010, but the research has been embargoed. How did he get on? Apparently during the course of the project, he managed to get devices "booting into a multi-user prompt," though some issues still remained due to a "poor implementation on the debug hardware."


What are the chances of this being real and relevant? Well, we know that Apple sometimes tests its engineers out on fake projects to make sure it can trust them, so it could be a pure dummy project. Or, equally likely, Apple was keen to understand more about the ARM architecture for use in laptops.

Either way, I suspect a shift to ARM in Apple's MacBooks is unlikely any time soon. [Apple Insider Image: Travis Isaacs]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


More likely that they would scale up the iPad than scale down the Macbooks. ARM processors have gotten much more capable recently, but the performance delta between them and high end x86 is still magnitudes, I can't see Apple trying to run full OSX on them. However I can see a Transformer Prime-like keyboard dock implementation for the iPad 3, that would be nice.

Edit: "According to the paper, Schaap worked with the group to get Darwin, the "lower half" of Apple's Mac OS X operating system, to boot onto an ARM processor from Marvell."

Darwin is used in iOS too. Case open and closed I guess.