Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
OS X Businesses Operating Systems Apple

Apple Secretly Maintaining x86 Port Of Mac OS X 736

Posted by timothy
from the diversity-in-the-workplace dept.
Earlybird writes "According to this eWeek article, Apple has ported the whole of Mac OS X to the x86 architecture and is maintaining it in parallel with the PowerPC builds. Dubbed Marklar, the project is perceived as a fall-back plan, and, quoth the article, 'has apparently gained strategic relevance in recent months, as Apple's relationship with Motorola has grown strained and Apple looks to alternative chip makers.'" Believe what you will ...
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Apple Secretly Maintaining x86 Port Of Mac OS X

Comments Filter:
  • Nope. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 31, 2002 @02:25PM (#4177357)
    If it's not on KaZaA, it doesn't exist.
  • Stick with PPC (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Microlith (54737) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @02:25PM (#4177358)
    If they can't stick with Motorola, they should go with IBM.

    It's one thing to go from 68k to a more powerful PPC architecture. It's another issue altogether to move from a PPC to an Intel or AMD cpu. The emulation speed would be a hell of a performance hit.
  • other sides (Score:5, Funny)

    by skydude_20 (307538) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @02:25PM (#4177365) Journal
    Intel: "Soon the Rebellion will be crushed and young Apple will be one of us!"

    • Jobs: "Powerful is the Dark Side of the force. Give in to the dark side, you must not"
      • by qslack (239825)
        Lucas: "Powerful are my lawyers. If smart you are, mess around you will not with my trademarks."
        • by MxTxL (307166)
          Woops, my bad.

          Jobs: "Powerful is the Dark Side(TM)* of the force. Give in to the Dark Side(TM), you must not"

          *the Dark Side(TM) trademark is property of Lucasfilm LTD and this post makes no claim of ownership of said mark. Used without permission.
    • Intel: "Soon the Rebellion will be crushed and young Apple will be one of us!"
      This is not so far from the truth. Apple may have been founded by Jobs and Wozniak, but the early funding for Apple came from former Intel marketing manager Mike Markkula [geocities.com]. Markkula bought into Apple for somewhere between $91k and $250k and helped it establish a line of credit with Bank of America and secure another $600k in venture capital.

      So in effect, one of the "fathers" of Apple Computer was an Intel marketing manager. Years later, Intel's mhz marketing sabre effectively severs Apple's arm, but Jobs created a new one with the mhz myth campaign. Emperor Microsoft is well aware of this does not want to be slain by its most trusted servant, so it makes subtle efforts to weaken Anakin Markkula (Darth Intel, Dark Lord of Santa Clara) by driving business to AMD.

  • I Doubt It (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gabeman-o (325552) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @02:26PM (#4177369)
    I find this extremely difficult to believe. Apple has had their developers make significant rewrites with the introduction of AltiVec and Cocoa, how can they expect developers to rewrite their software for x86?
    • I find this extremely difficult to believe. Apple has had their developers make significant rewrites with the introduction of AltiVec and Cocoa, how can they expect developers to rewrite their software for x86?

      They would ask for rewrites of things like code that expected registers to be in Big-Endian order...

      AN example was found when one of the first ports away from the PDP-11 architecture occured... The welcome banner said something like:"Welcome to NUXI V2.1" (16 bit registers in little-endian going to big-endian).

      For a long time after that, people referred to it as "The Nuxi problem".

      Microsoft needlessly Jumped into the middle of this minefield when they decided to not put some of their Kerberos data in network-order (big-endian) format. If they ever see the need to port NT to a non-little-endian CPU again, they're gonna have code blowing up all over the place.

    • If the code is clean it will just recompile.
    • Re:I Doubt It (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MaxVlast (103795) <maxim@GIRAFFEsla.to minus herbivore> on Saturday August 31, 2002 @03:50PM (#4177827) Homepage
      Cocoa ain't a big deal: it's the same set of APIs that made up OpenStep, which was sufficiently cross-platform that you could code in OpenStep for both Windows NT and Solaris along with OpenStep, the operating system.
      • Re:I Doubt It (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dubl-u (51156)
        Yep!

        For those who don't know the history, NeXT had originally written their OS for custom Motorola 68k hardware. They then ported it to run on I think four architectures: the original gear, generic Intel boxes, HP's PA-RISC gear, and some sort of SPARC hardware. A few years later, they changed things further so that you could use their development tools to write apps for NT and Solaris.

        Then when NeXT took over Apple (yeah, that's what I mean), they promised the NeXT users that they would be merging MacOS and OpenStep, offering it on multiple hardware platforms. According to my 1997 WWDC notes, Mitch Mandich [apple.com] said the plan was to launch what was then called "Rhapsody" simultaneously for Intel and Mac hardware. At the time they were promising that this would be available for some Mac hardware by early '98 and for most of the PPC line by mid '98.

        Of course, this all turned out to be utterly wrong; OS X actually came out three years later. Personally, I wasted a lot of time and money based on their promises, and my contempt for Steve Jobs is now substantial and lasting.

        So yeah, it wouldn't shock me that they have OS X running happily on Intel hardware, as that was where a lot of it was running first. I imagine that some of the chrome is not well optimized for Intel, but I'm sure they were smart enough to keep the architecture clean. If they decide to launch for Intel, they will of course have some big driver issues to deal with, but hopefully they can boost enough BSD code so that won't be a showstopper, either.

      • Re:I Doubt It (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Unknown Lamer (78415) <clinton@unk[ ]nlamer.org ['now' in gap]> on Saturday August 31, 2002 @09:14PM (#4178868) Homepage Journal

        Cocoa ain't a big deal: it's the same set of APIs that made up OpenStep, which was sufficiently cross-platform that you could code in OpenStep for both Windows NT and Solaris along with OpenStep, the operating system.

        Don't forget GNUStep [gnustep.org]. Eventually GNUStep will be compatible with OpenStep and Mac OS X (the non-gui portion of GNUStep is already > 1.0). Just think of the joy of having OpenStep available on basically every POSIX system as Free Software.

    • A lot of companies are already cross platform. That means that they likely have Intel (and AMD) versions of any AltiVec enhanced functions.

      As for Cocoa, well, that should be abstracted enough to be, largely, a non issue.

      A simple recompile, as they say, not that such things are ever "simple."
  • by qslack (239825) <qslack@p[ ]x.com ['obo' in gap]> on Saturday August 31, 2002 @02:27PM (#4177371) Homepage Journal
    They have ported all of Mac OS X to x86? Not just the kernel?

    Let's pool $100,000 (Blender-style) and bribe the guy who runs their internal CVS repositories. Anyone wanna throw in a few bucks for macosx-x86-0dayl33t.iso? :)
  • by Eravau (12435) <tony.colter@noSPaM.tonycolter.com> on Saturday August 31, 2002 @02:27PM (#4177372) Homepage Journal
    How long 'til we get to see some leaked photos of Apple-specific X86 hardwware?
  • by mwber (235552)
    It seems like they could still couple hardware and software if they went to x86, just not as tightly. They could keep lists of "recommended" hardware, with some sort of rating or ranking system. Perhaps they wouldn't even attempt to write drivers for more than a couple peripherals and allow open source drivers to emerge if they're needed.

    Just a thought.
  • I'd definitely buy it if it were released. I'm all about having choices in the market, and OS X running natively on x86 hardware would be a step in the right direction. Both from the standpoint that I'd have more choices of what OS to run on my PC-compatible box, and in terms of what hardware I can choose to run Mac OS X on.

    Come on, Steve -- give me a 2-button trackpad on a Titanium powerbook, that's all I ask for. I'm paying three grand for the thing, the least it could have is the number of mouse buttons *I* want on it.
    • I would only use it if I was actually using Mac hardware. I really don't see any reason that I need to switch other than that.
  • by eyefish (324893) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @02:29PM (#4177388)
    Here I'm posting an article I wrote about the Mac OS X on the PC Platform long ago and that I tried getting publish on /.. Well, maybe now is a good time to post it after all

    As we all know, with Linux we have the best free (as in beer) operating system in the market. It's fast, it's stable, it's well-supported, it scales, and it has a GUI environment that although very acceptable to the Linux community, it really is not up to par to the elegance and simplicity of the Mac OS/X GUI (and god spare me some flames, even the Windows XP interface feels better than the "stock" KDE or GNOME shipped with Linux).

    On the other hand, we have Mac OS/X, the most amazing GUI out today for any platform. It certainly makes our friend Bill G. jelaous. It also has an amazing rendering engine by sporting PDF under the hood. However, even though it has a great backbone in the form of an open BSD system, the truth is that it is doubtfull the apple folks will get the steam, hype, and generally market support that Linux is constantly getting lately in all media, corporations, and geeks alike. Add to that the fact that Mac OS/X runs only on the PowerPC platform (at least officially), and you get a lot of potential market away from Apple.

    So how about this, why not have Apple port it's whole Mac OS/X upper layers to the x86 platform, publish some specs for Linux vendors to "plug under", and run it on top of such Linux-based (as opposed BSD-based) systems???

    With this we'd get the great support Linux enjoys in the enterprise (even when I'm first to recognize that BSD is just as good technical-wise, but this is a market-driven world folks), it'd also get the support from the millions of geeks who own a x86 machine, it'd get the support of all the OEMs who would almost inmmediatelly start providing hardware/software products for the platform, and just as important it would get the support of the common user thanks to its simple, elegant, and fast GUI system.

    As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure soon after we could start converting all Wintel users to the new platform ("Mac OS/Linux"?), since a new hardware investment would not be needed. Just a software download and a much lower price than a Windows license (say, 50 bucks?).

    I know, some will argue that "what makes Macs different is the tight integration of the OS with the hardware" and blah blah blah, but heck, should this that I propose take off, I'm sure that Apple will have enough leverage to publish standards making this integration much simpler and still remain open, while benefiting everyone.

    Note that since the Mac OS layer would sit on top of a MacOS-compliant Linux distro, it means that teckies will NOT be forced to use the Mac OS GUI, since they could use their Linux distro as usual, minus the Mac stuff. They could even keep using their old KDE or GNOME GUIs.

    So, how does Apple make money? selling the top layer (software services and GUI), and if they want even selling slick custom-built hardware boxes like they do today with the OS pre-installed.

    Now, please stop all the flames about "sotfware should be free and I shouldn't have to pay to use the Mac OS/X layer on top of Linux" and all that. Software should be free, but people also have families to take care of, and Apple's effort should be rewarded by paying them. Case closed.

    As for Linux, imagine all of a sudden a flood of trully useable applications being ported from the Mac (and even Wintel) world to the new "Mac OS/Linux". This would eliminate the barrier many have when trying to move from Wintel to Mac: "my apps don't work or I can't access my data".

    Also imagine the simplicity of installing, deinstalling, and managing applications that Mac OS would bring (do not tell me how debian, RPMs, etc are great, they suck big time if you ever had to use them regularly; yes I have).

    This, I think, it's what would really bring a true competitor to the Windows monopoly. I'm sure that *I* would switch inmediatelly.

    And BTW, as an example let's take my own case: I do not use Linux regularly because it's just too darn hard to do anything (unless you _already_ knew how to do it). Sure once you get it working it's fine and dandy, but heck, sometimes to get it to work you have to get the sources, read the FAQs, HowTos, set some flags, find dependencies, get extra libraries, etc.

    Likewise, I don't use Mac OS/X because I can't go out and afford to buy a whole new machine architecture. I already have my decent 1.2Ghz Celeron, it works fine, why should I switch and spend US$1,700 just to use a nice GUI?

    However allow me to keep my machine, give me the stability and power of Linux, and the elegance and simplicity of the Mac, and you can count me in right away.

    Now don't get me wrong, Linux is *awesome* for someone that knows how to use it, or has the time to learn it. I think's it's an amazing platform for Apache, mySQL, PHP, firewalling, routing, Java, Perl, etc, but it could be much more if it was easier to administer and use.

    You gotta understand that the people in large corporations are afraid of getting into something they don't understand or think it's too complex, this is why Windows NT has gotten such a large market share; People very close to me admit it, they use WinNT even if they have to reboot it once every 2 weeks because it is *easy* to use. And folks, yes I agree that maybe "they're not qualified enough to have such a job", but the reality is that they are here to stay and always will be here to stay, and Microsoft is counting on them.

    Add to all this the distressing fact that the Windows OS _is_ getting better all the time (ask a Win95/98/Me user how many times they rebooted WinXP lately, or check out the Windows .Net Server Beta). Eventually (the truth hurts folks), Windows will be as fast and stable as Linux, and yes, they will copy the Mac look and get away with it just as they did with Windows. And they will have a market of several hundred million users who (like a herd) will simply follow Microsoft because simply they're not tech-savvy enough to realize that there are other choices. And developers will continue increasingly target the Windows platform because numbers speak: Do I sell for 4 million Linux machines, 5 million Mac machines, or 500 million Wintel machines?

    This is the time folks to trully all come together and trully create a second option to Wintel. Let's combine the best of what we have (a Linux foundation, X86 hardware, and Mac OS upper services and GUI layers), and trully create something we can be proud of a few years from now.

    So what's the next step? Someone should send this article to Apple's Steve Jobs, and have Steve meet with the heads of the major Linux distros to define some specs that all would follow to support the Mac Layer. Rally some OEMs to make their products "Mac Linux"-ready (so that they could support the tight-integration features that makes Macs such a joy to use today), and rally the big software developer houses and let them know about this and get them excited, and let's all rally behind this effort and give them all the support the open source community is famous for. This could be the beginning of a trully beautiful relationship...

    • You put out a lot of good reasons the Open Source community would want this, or could use it. But you're putting in no reason for Apple to want to do it.

      Apple would die the quarter that OSX became an x86 commodity. On x86 hardware, they'd be dealing with all the vendors that make things for Microsoft as competition, and dealing with unhappy traditional Mac developers that just made the switch to OS X on PPC. They'd alienate the entire Apple infrastructure just to gain a few points on hardware speed that they wouldn't even be able to sell anymore. People won't pay Apple's -slightly- higher hardware prices when they can get the exact same thing (technically) for less.

      Apple makes money by selling hardware, that's where the support base they have is, and that's where the company excels. The entire user experience as a whole is what drives Apple sales.

      If we do see OS X on x86, we'll see it on the same Apple hardware we see today, just with a different chip in the mix. It'll all be Apple branded, no clones, no over the counter OS sales for plain-jane x86 machines.

      This is the ONLY way that an x86 port of OS X makes sense to Apple.

      Personally, I'm betting that it'll be the new .09 (Or is it .06?) micron fab IBM just built that'll produce the next generation of Apple chip.
      • Actually, the prices for an Apple-branded x86 machine would likely be higher, as processors from Intel and AMD are quite a bit higher than prices for PPC chips.

        I'm not an expert on this subject, and this might be nothing more than uninformed speculation, but I'm guessing this is the price OEMs pay for having lots of frequent updates in processors. Intel and AMD spend a lot on R&D for these things, then have short, relatively low volume production runs leading to lower marginal profits on each unit sold.
    • ...and run it on top of such Linux-based (as opposed BSD-based) systems???

      Bloody Hell! Why would you want to cripple it like that?
  • Business as usual (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brindle (8241) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @02:29PM (#4177391) Homepage
    Of course they have an X86 port.

    If they release on intel hardware it will be for a finite set of manufactures to a limited set of specs, so that they can continue to deliver true plug-and-play. Expect to pay more for intel based hardware that runs Mac OS X.

    And don't be too disapointed if your current system is not supported.

    -b

    • by mjprobst (95305) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @03:12PM (#4177639) Homepage Journal
      I think everyone is _still_ not thinking far enough outside the commodity X86-box market when they say "it will run on a finite set of specs".

      Think rather, "Apple will design its own motherboards from scratch, with the only thing in common with other X86 boards being the presence of an x86-compatible chip".

      They could dispense with lots of the legacy bullcrap that way--use something similar to Open Firmware, eliminate unnecessary layers of BIOS bullcrap, leave out any legacy support for ISA in the chipset, support a reasonable interrupt architecture, whatever else they want.

      Plus, software like VMWare could still probably be made to run Windows on such an architecture, since these are the kinds of things that can be virtualized, and the things that aren't necessary. I doubt Windows would run out-of-the-box on such an architecture without some virtualizing mechanism to emulate missing things. But you'd still get better speed than with an X86 emulator on PPC.

      I think it would be cool, actually, and even useful if VMWare were ported to it.
      • by g4dget (579145)
        Except for the x86, Macintosh is already almost a PC: PCI, USB, IEEE1394, AGP, ATA, etc. Even their BIOS is not homegrown anymore. And the mainstream PC hardware architecture has gotten pretty powerful--it's unlikely that Apple can do any better. PC vendors also have started eliminating complex legacy stuff pretty aggressively--in another year or two, ISA, parallel ATA, and PS/2 will likely be history, and BIOSes (for better or worse) will be based around ACP.
  • Performance (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hobbesmaster (592205)
    I wonder what type of performance OSX gets on x86 processors; photoshop doesn't count.
  • Holy Snikees!!!!

    I say bring it on. Of course this would mean a custom bios and only "Apple approved" hardware would work, but this should at least bring the cost down.

    Imagine a $600 Imac that you could use your own monitor with!!! My check if officially prewritten.

    Oh it would probably be a swift kick in the balls to MS as well :-)
    • All of your points are precisely why Apple won't do it:

      1. Apple is a hardware company. They get their money from your $1100 iMac, not your $600 commodity iMac.

      2. Steve would cringe to see Mac OS X running on your monitor. He'd make the most god-awful face, and we don't want to see that.

      3. Microsoft would respond to a kick in the balls by cutting Apple's balls right off. Office X for the Mac? Sorry, it only runs on PPC macs. We had technical issues porting it.

      Down the toilet, swirl swirl swirl.
  • by laserjet (170008) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @02:31PM (#4177401) Homepage
    I hope this new marklar really works on marklar marklar. Marklar seems to be the marklar of the marklar, not just another markler off the old marklar. Marklar really does need to marklar another marklar maker in order to be marklar with the marklar. Marklar is just not marlar anymore, and this seems to be a good marklar to the marklar. A small marklar to marklar, really.

  • Darwin is the core for OS X and there is a port for it called GNU-Darwin-x86. Aqua is the GUI and I think that there are some people working on this.
  • Believable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeffrey Baker (6191) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @02:41PM (#4177466)
    I'll believe Apple has an x86 port of OS X. But, the OS is not the main problem. Apple can't switch to the x86 because their app vendors would be in hell trying to port their AltiVec optimizations to MMX/SSE/3DNow!/SSE2. Nevermind that Apple would suddenly be just another PC vendor.

    It is much more plausible that Apple is switching the 64-bit IBM Power4 CPU. IBM is presenting this new desktop version of the CPU at Microprocessor Forum on October 15th. The CPU has a mystery vector unit with 160+ instructions, just like AltiVec. There was a post to the gcc-patches mailing list proposing a patch to enable altivec support on the powerpc64 target, and this patch originated from Alan Modra at IBM's Linux Technology Center.

    All evidence indicates that IBM will produce a desktop CPU with an AltiVec unit. Apple has hit the wall with Motorola, and are now selling overclocked G4 miracle CPUs just to stay in the game. I think Apple will switch to Power4.

    • I don't think Apple would suddenly be just another PC vendor. Porting OS-X to Intel CPU's does not mean Apple would adopt the complete PC architecture for their future hardware. I am almost certain they would make non-PC compatible Intel hardware.

      Apple has no reason to stop their excellent strategy of close marriage between non-commodity, thus predictable, hardware and their operating system. I do think they develop the Intel version in order to be able to switch CPU, should the Power PC CPU not work out well, not in order to become just another PC vendor.

      And of course they want to keep it highly secret, since it would be very damaging to current hardware sales once people start to think another CPU switch (like 680x0 -> power in the past) making the current hardware obsolete.
      • Umm, hasn't apple already adopted the PC architecture? PCI, USB, AGP, etc?
        • This != Mac Clones (Score:3, Interesting)

          by feldsteins (313201)
          There are really two things to consider:

          First, that Apple will solder proprietary widgets to the Macintosh motherboard which the OS will look for before booting. No widget, no boot. Simple as that.

          Now you might say, "someone will reverse engineer it and then there will be rampant Mac clones," which brings us to the second point...

          Second, even though it's totally possible to reverse engineer these types of widgets it's not realistic to do so. This is simply because Apple can change it willy-nilly any time they freakin' want to. Who is going to continue to invest in reverse engineering in order to remain compatible? Nobody. Don't believe it? Consider that you can buy G4 processors and you can buy all the standard Mac motherboard stuff...and absolutely nothing is stopping you from reverse engineering the proprietary widgets in use right now...and thus making your own Mac clone business...and yet nobody is doing it. I see no reason to believe that this will be a more attractive prospect just because Apple switches processors.
    • Re:Believable (Score:5, Informative)

      by YeahIThoughtSo (415635) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @03:22PM (#4177678)
      I totally agree. I program GameCube games, and the PPC chip that IBM has supplied in it is just a wonderful little powerhouse. It's a modified 750 core running at 486 Mhz and has got incredible FP performance and ~ 1.6 GB/s out to memory through a special write-gather pipe. The FP can handle paired-singles (anyone see the altivec connection here?), and the machine as a whole is just stupid fast. (Yes, the memory architecture has someting to do with this too...)

      Anyways, it totally makes sense for apple to go with a desktop version of the POWER4 core. The PPC specification is such that any program written that targets the UISA (think it stands for something like user instruction set architecture -- ie, non-privelidged instructions) will move right over to any other PPC core w/o a recompile. And the PPC64 spec is such that all instructions are still 32bit; it's just the data / registers that're 64bit. So binary compatibility is a no-brainer.

      Couple in the fact that power4 has multiple cores on a die... and, damn. I'll buy my first Apple machine if they actually do this.

    • by Blaede (266638) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @04:16PM (#4177929)
      Apple employee Vince Garcia once mentioned he had OSX running on an Intel at home back in 2000, nothing new here. And remember all those stories on Macworld of the old Mac OS ports running on Intel? Heck, I'm running OS7 right now, albeit via Basilisk.
    • Re:Believable (Score:4, Insightful)

      by zapfie (560589) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @10:11PM (#4179085)
      Well, an x86 port does not imply x86 architecture. Apple's not stupid enough to kill off their hardware sales- after all, it's what keeps them so strong. Using an x86 chip in a custom Apple architecture gets rid of the whole issue with Motorola and IBM, but maintains Apple's grip on the Mac hardware market. Now THAT is more plausible.
  • I can see one consumer advantage right away-- Lower hardware costs. The ability to take it anywhere for repairs, not just apple certified (or uncertified, for that matter), which are fewer and farther between and generally higher priced to boot. Don't have to worry about those specialized apple motherboards anymore either. Not that they still wouldn't have their own software issues, but it certainly can't hurt...
  • But I don't think they're going to release it on anything other than their custom hardware, which will be overpriced like their PPC hardware.

    Who cares if moto can't provide the chips, they're getting Cu-connect PPCs from IBM now, right?

  • didn't we already know this?

    Apple maintains this in case they decide to switch the Mac processor to x86.

    It's not so that OSX will work on your PC.
    It's so that apple can build a Mac using an intel chip instead of ppc.

  • Presumably, Apple isn't really "porting" to x86. OS X is based on FreeBSD which was developed for x86. I seriously doubt that they made many assembly level changes that required serious parellel development.

    If one thinks about it, maintaining a version of OS X on multiple platforms makes sense. It helps catch bugs since undefined behavior can be more volitale on certain platforms (and hence, easier to catch). One of the best ways to squash bugs out of a program is to have it run on a variety of platforms.

    I wouldn't be suprised is OS X ran on a whole bunch of platforms... Of course, that doesn't mean that 1) Apple has any plans to release ports or 2) that there is decent hardware support on any other architectures.
  • I've actually been thinking about this a bit, and couldn't decide if I fell on the, "There's no way Apple's duplicating their efforts on x86; it's just not economic. They're already late releasing OS X and its updates as is," side or if I figured that "Motorola and IBM just aren't getting it together with the PowerPC; it might be time to jump ship".

    I usually end up thinking that if Apple used x86, the OS would lose all its tricks that are G4 specific (particularly things that used the AltiVec instruction set [altivec.org]). These are the things that it's used to make Photoshop run faster -- not to mention iMovie, iDVD, etc -- if the OS swapped over to another processor architecture. If a Mac is slow now, wait until it loses the one ace up its sleeve when it comes to digital video. Seems that'd shoot Apple's new niche (one-stop digital hub) all to heck.

    Not to mention what the switch would mean for third parties that would have to recompile (again!) for the new platform. I doubt the Classic environment is making its way to x86! Not a big deal in itself, and a break from Classic would be super, but hang on... That probably means Carbon, the compatibility layer that helps apps written for Classic run natively on OS X, is also out. Now we're talking problems. Legacy 3rd party code is out the window in many cases.

    I do wonder if Apple's gone so far as to utilize whatever's the equivalent of MMX in the Pentium 4 and AMD Athlon's instruction set to overcome the problems it'd suffer by switching (pardon the pun). I still can't imagine Carbon's x86 compatible. Cocoa ("new improved NextStep") would probably be all that would make the jump.

    I suppose it can't be that tough to port if you limit to Cocoa, though. As people have pointed out before, Darwin [apple.com]'s got an x86 version now and NextStep (the OS Apple bought that was supposed to turn into OS X a little more quickly) ran on x86 hardware. I always thought it'd be silly to duplicate all the effort of the tweaks Apple put into Next for PowerPC as they were already way behind on OS X without clear x86 plans, but perhaps those tweaks aren't as fancy or ugly as I'd assumed.

    I still don't think this means Apple's leaving hardware, any way you slice it. There will be something, even in x86 Macs if they show up, that makes it so that you can't run OS X without quite a bit of custom hardware that Apple controls.
    • I usually end up thinking that if Apple used x86, the OS would lose all its tricks that are G4 specific (particularly things that used the AltiVec instruction set). These are the things that it's used to make Photoshop run faster -- not to mention iMovie, iDVD, etc -- if the OS swapped over to another processor architecture. If a Mac is slow now, wait until it loses the one ace up its sleeve when it comes to digital video. Seems that'd shoot Apple's new niche (one-stop digital hub) all to heck.

      Altivec schmaltivec. Yes, it works and it's cool, but the x86 chips have the higher clocks. These companies already have versions of the software optimized for x86 CPUs, because there's more software on x86 than there is on PPC. Not everything is on both platforms, but most software which requires that much CPU is present on both platforms already. They can borrow the highly optimized code from the wintel version.

    • Altivec isn't worth keeping if you'r emoving to x86.

      Case in point ? Photoshop on a run of the mill athlon xp smokes the fastest hardware apple makes. Photoshop is supposed to be "the altivec macintosh app".

      PPC hardware, altivec or not, is slower.

      Incidentally, iMovie and all that other stuff runs on G3 macs with no altivec at all.

      Your good observation is that classic and carbon apps wouldn't run well/at all on an x86 port.

      Regarding coca / nextstep on x86, that problem was solved 15 years ago. nextSTEP 3.3 ran on x86 quite well. It was succeeded by OpenSTEP 4.x, which also ran on x86 hardware quite nicely.

      Infact, apple didn't throw away 100% x86 compat until they did their quartz +aqua UI peice, and then grafted the legacy mac os 9 shit into the OS.

    • Apple would lose AltiVec, but they'd gain SSE and SSE2 which are almost the same thing.

      Why wouldn't Carbon work on x86? It's just C code.
  • by jchristopher (198929) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @03:00PM (#4177585)
    Don't get all excited just yet. Even if this came to fruition, it would almost certainly be on a very narrow subset of x86 (apple-controlled) hardware - not just something you could buy in a box and install on your existing generic box.

    As such, it would suffer from all the current problems of the Apple platform: no 'cheap' (This does hold promise, though. I've been very disappointed with the GUI speed of OSX, and I'd be very interested in how much of a speedup there would be on more modern hardware.

  • In other news...

    Microsoft has secret internal plans to open source their always changing strangle hold - the .doc format. This, according to "sources", is seen as move to stem growing concern in its customer base that Microsoft really is, as they've been twice found guilty of, abusing its monopoly status in the market.

    ...and all throughout the world, pigs have sprouted wings and taken to flight.

  • You'd have to have a custom BIOS, or you'd lose the "startup disk" functionality. After all, you can boot any number of OS images off any number of disks with Apple hardware. Losing startup disk would be a pain - how to run multiple versions of the OS?

    The graphics card issue isn't a big deal. You'll probably have to choose from one of several "approved" GeForce and ATI cards; big deal. Isn't that more or less what Windows power users do these days?

    Likewise the rest of the story - Firewire, USB, etc - is no big deal. The average /.'er screams about the "closed" hardware but lately it's more and more PC-like.

    Apple would likely lose all-in-one boxes. Most x86 laptops I encounter these days run hot. Crusoe, anyone?

    Otherwise, really... the high-ups want Classic gone ASAP, and the important parts of Carbon run on Darwin, right? Cocoa used to run on x86.

    I just can't see it happening, though. More of a bargaining chip than anything else.
  • I'm going to agree with the other people who have mentioned the new IBM Power4. And, provided the G5 ever comes out, it would potentially put Apple back in the game, performance-wise.

    That is, of course, if the rumored speeds are to be believed (G5 1.6ghz is supposed to have roughly twice the SpecFP and SpecINT of a P4-2ghz - The Register). Due in January, last I heard. We'll see.

    I can see the possibility of them going to another chip manufacturer, and AMD would be the most likely - IIRC, the AMD architecture is emulating the x86 on half the die, with the other half being RISC based. If they could come up with a PPC emulator, it might be doable. That being said, NeXT _was_ running on x86.

    As for Marklar being the phrase? Well, this is the company that had BHA (Butt-headed astronomer - one was originally coded Sagan, and Sagan threatened to sue) as a code phrase. And saying Marklar would actually make discussing things in public possible. (aka "So, did you figure out issue X with Marklar"?). But that would also indicate that it's a little under 3 years old (Starvin Marvin in Space airdate: 11/17/99). If they started around then on it, then that might work, but it's starting to sound implausible.

    So, like most things Apple: who knows? only time will tell.
  • by ParisTG (106686) <tgwozdz@@@gmail...com> on Saturday August 31, 2002 @03:22PM (#4177681)
    Something to keep in mind, is that x86 != PC. That is, just because it runs on an x86 chip, does not mean it will run on any run-of-the-mill PC. The most likely strategy, if Apple does indeed decide to switch chips, is that they will produce their own x86 processor based boxes. These would NOT be PC compatible, but would rather be Apple computers that just happen to use an x86 chip.

    Of course then the only problem is backwards compatibility, unless the x86 has a large enough margin over the PPC that it can be effectively emulated (like what Apple did when they switched from 680x0 to PPC).
  • Remember that the powerpc architecture is not all owned by Motorolla. IBM and Apple also have claims to it. IBM would gain lots of money if it helped apple not to mention it has some the best chip fabrication plants in the world. Both apple and IBM may be able to work some sort of deal with Motorolla and just buy the remaining IP off. Motorolla can no longer afford to keep upgrading its plants and this is why the G5 is so late.

    I wonder if IBM could make a low cost version of its Power3 chip and strip out some of the high end features like its 2 chips in one, lower the cache, and simplify some of its fp registers and make the lower end power3 chips using the latest chip fabrication technology so it can clock high. After that, apple could have a nice 2 - 2.5 gig powerpc chip that could run circles around the g4.

    Transmeta is also a solution but they do not own any chip fabrication plants.

    IBM and Apple would gain everything. It would be very very bad for apple to switch to x86. Infact vendors are struggling to get OSX ports of there apps and many are switching to wintel. Another move like a major chip migration would hurt apple because many vendors would just leave and existing powerpc mac users would feel left out in the cold. After all only some apps have been ported and now the vendors may just switch to OSX/intel totally or leave for wintel.

  • Already done that (Score:5, Informative)

    by moosesocks (264553) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @03:29PM (#4177712) Homepage
    Actually, apple released an incomplete build of an early development build of OSX compiled for X86 to ADC members sometime around 4 years ago. It was dubbed as the Apple Rhaposody OS Developer Release 3. It was quite intersesting to pick up the similarities between it and OSX. A ton of information, along with screenshots are posted at this site [toastytech.com].

    It was really a transitional OS which gap between NextSTEP and OSX. It contains both elements of both OSes. Anybody recognize the chess program at the bottom of the page?
  • Listen... I'll all for more competition, etc, but MAX OS X is going to run like CRAP on your Dell Boxen, or whatever it is you have, because of NO QUALITY CONTROL of what parts are in you little box. Crappy video cards, horrific sound cards, hell, half of the stuff Creative Labs puts out is junk, and their drivers are worse. How is an OS supposed to work with all this? Answer: It doesn't (see Windoze and Linux compatability problems). If you want to spend hours inside playing with vi to get sound working, have fun! Use Linux. We don't need Mac OS X on Intel.

    All we will have is problems, on the side of the vendors, who either make bad hardware, or bad drviers for their hardware.

  • "Isn't it difficult to tell everyone apart when everything is called Marklar?"

    "Oh, no. Hey Marklar?"

    "Yeah?"

    "You see?"
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @03:51PM (#4177832) Journal
    Back when PC boards were designed with red, blue, and black tape on mylar sheets, and UARTs were the cutting edge, there were two vendors of UARTs who had somewhat different designs. A small manufacturer of terminals had designed for one of 'em. But they were new and cutting edge, and the plant capacity was limited. So the vendor was being obstinate about giving them sufficient allocation to make their production targets.

    Well the alternative chip was about the same side and functionality but had different pinout. And there was some extra room on the board. So a few days before the salesman was due to visit they hauled out the mylar master for the PC board, laid out the pad pattern of the alternate chip, and started taping up something that looked like reasonable circuitry.

    Sure enough, the salesman saw the work in progress, concluded that the terminal was being designed so it could be built with either UART, and paniced. After that there was never a problem getting allocation.

    I think the circuitry was never finished and tested. The pads made it onto the final PC board (no point in ripping the tape back off the master) but weren't even dirlled (at 1/2 cent per hole per board). And they came to be known as "The Blackmail Pads". B-)
  • by ducasi (106725) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @03:53PM (#4177842) Journal
    Of course Apple have a x86 port of OS X. They want to keep their options open, and even if they don't move to x86 they will benefit by having an operating system that is already portable between architectures.

    As for the evidence - it you do a "strings /Applications /DVD Player.app /Contents /Frameworks /DVDPlayback.framework /Versions /A /DVDPlayback | less "
    (i've added spaces before each "/" to keep slashdot happy - you need to take them out again!)

    Now, search for "Debug", and look at the three next lines:

    DisablePIIISupport
    DisableATHLONSupport
    Disabl ePIVSupport

    Now why would Apple's DVD Player have code concerning itself with PIII's, P4's and Athlons if they didn't have a version which ran on those chips???

    Personally, I don't see Apple making the switch, but they've survived by surprising us time and time again...
  • Apple will NEVER (read: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER) sell a version of the Mac OS that can be run on any cheap POS that you cobbled together from parts you bought in Target for $5 each. Wake up and smell the coffee, okay, because I'm getting tired of reading all your posts.

    Apple sells the experience of using tightly-integrated hardware and software. They can't do that if they suddenly have to make sure their software will work with every home-built x86 whitebox on the face of the earth. What Apple does is something that Microsoft can never do, unless they start selling their own brand of computers and restrict Windows to only run on Microsoft PCs.

    Even if Apple ever were to switch to making x86-based Macs (and you, the reader, are significantly more likely to bang Anna Kournikova than to see an x86-based Mac for sale), they would put something proprietary in those machines, maybe even in every component of those machines, and change the Mac OS to refuse to boot if it doesn't detect that proprietary something. That's the only way they'll be able to preserve the 'it just works' aspects that are a major part of their success.

    Personally, I think Apple will,very soon, tell Motorola to go piss up a rope (and I say, it's about time!). The new IBM chip has something close enough to AltiVec, and IBM actually gives a shit about improving their products. Now that Mac OS X is truly ready for prime time with 10.2, all Apple needs is to be able to produce machines that will impress the MHz/GHz-obsessed, cock-measuring crowd.

    ~Philly
    • And here we go with an uniformed Apple elitist droning on about his superior hardware quality. I will commend Apple's recent efforts and say that they offer the most elegent package for the home user, however, they could do the same with x86 hardware. Just because you can but cheap x86 hardware does not mean that you can not build a very high quality x86 box. As an x86 OEM, apple could still build their funky cases, still design a proprietary motherboard (which most OEM's do currently), and still tightly control the hardware.

      Now that Mac OS X is truly ready for prime time with 10.2, all Apple needs is to be able to produce machines that will impress the MHz/GHz-obsessed, cock-measuring crowd.


      Actually, since Apple is so focused on the multimedia segment, they are really hurting on the hardware side. My $1000 Athlon box is out rendering $3000 G4 boxes. Why? Mainly because of Apples very slow FSB, and relatively slow chips. And no, I'm not just talking about clock speed, even Carmack admits that PPC's are slower then x86's for Doom, and that optimizations for Altivec only have significant value in a limited number of situations. This isn't to say that PPC's are awesome for certain tasks, especially where raw performance is not required. As you said, coupled with OS 10.2, Apple has a very good consumer product.

      I'm not saying as a business decision that Apple should do this, but I'm saying that from a purely technical standpoint it would not affect the quality of Apple products.
  • by cryptochrome (303529) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @06:09PM (#4178290) Journal
    I think the advantages of actually putting out an x86 version of os x (which by the way went by the name "Star Trek" before, IIRC) are outweighed by the various (mostly hardware-revenue related) disadvantages.

    However, it's an invaluable asset to have anyway, because you can blackmail microsoft with it. Remember when MS bought all that Apple stock? Remember what dire straights Apple has been in in the past? Despite all that, Mac OS remains to this day the only consumer OS besides windows that has managed to gain and hold onto a significant userbase versus Windows. And it has a lot of software. So pretend you're Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs gives you a ring and says "If we start to go under, for any reason, we're releasing our x86 build of Mac OS X... as open source." There's not enough TP in Redmond to handle that kind of threat. Or any of the lesser ones they could make too.
  • by hoytt (469787) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @07:46PM (#4178571)
    One of the authors is Nick dePlume, editor-in-chief of http://www.thinksecret.com. This site has a bit shaky reputation when it comes to rumours. The have a few hits, but most of the things they publish are blanks. In the past this site has had various rumours about OS X on x86 hardware. None of which turned out te be anything. Just because they publish and article on eweek doesn't mean it's more credible.

    According to sources, the Cupertino, Calif., Mac maker has been working steadily on maintaining current, PC-compatible builds of its Unix-based OS.

    This doesn't shed any light. Unless they come with a more reliable thing than 'sources' I think it's a miss.
  • by Rudolf (43885) on Saturday August 31, 2002 @11:10PM (#4179287)
    Why would Apple want to go with x86, instead of a 64-bit processor, such as the Itanium family? It has (according to Intel) the support of Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and Linux. If Apple did a port to this architecture, then they could switch from PPC when the time is right.

    Doesn't this make more sense than investing time and effort in the 32-bit x86 platform?

Mediocrity finds safety in standardization. -- Frederick Crane

Working...