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Transitive Tiger

A Mac Rumors “Page 2” (ie probably not true) report details a possible link between Transitive and Apple. Transitive is a Manchester-based company which specialises in products which allow one processor architecture to run code from a different one – in this case, PowerPC code on Intel chips. It’s one that’s been doing the rumour rounds for a couple of years: although it’s certain that Apple has been working on an Intel version of OS X, I’ve always maintained that this is more of a strategic backup (in case PowerPC flags) rather than a serious product.

One of Mac Rumors comments, though, is worth picking up on:

Apple has traditionally been a hardware company, with the bulk of revenue coming from Mac hardware. The past few years, however, has seen software become a larger portion of their revenue.

It’s worth saying that there’s no reason why an Intel port of OS X equates to Apple becoming a software company. There would be nothing to stop Apple adopting Intel processors while preventing OS X from installing on bog-standard PCs – thus allowing it to continue to be a hardware company.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • danp

    Why can’t this be the other way around? Running Windows on PPC chips?

    I’m no processor genius, but I seem to remember it’s much harder to emulate a PPC than an x86. Some thing to do with the number of registers.

  • http://www.commandertrombone.com Max

    There’s no reason for an Intel “port.” It’s no secret that the heritage of Mac OS X is the Mac OS, but also NeXTStep, which always ran on X86 hardware. (Before returning to Apple, Steve Jobs carried around a Think Pad running a NeXT OS.) Even as we type, there are probably current versions of Mac OS X running on Intel hardware. The hurdle would be running classic applications, but those are inevitably entering the horse and buggy era. The moral of the story? Some of the rumor sites are resorting to a safer alternative to posting stuff they probably shouldn’t–using their imaginations.

  • dg

    As a strategic backup it is a smart strategy. However, the Mac experience is what it is because apple controls both hardware and software and develops them strategically /synergistically together. I think apple would have almost the same problems with PC hardware due to the chaos and slapstick nature of the PC hack-together anything market. It-just-works© nature of OSX would be hobbled by the mish-mash of PC hardware and addons, only to generate negative user PC user reactions.

  • jake

    OS X on Intel will not happen there is too much effort involved in tuning the OS to operate with things like Altivec, running Windows apps on a Mac however does have appeal. If Transitive can enable this and it works better than Virtual PC then that would be good, although it would still be a Windows application and not be as good as native OSX app.

    I can’t imagine why Apple would choose now when there appears to be so much momentum behind the PowerPC (G5 and Cell Processor) to release a version for Intel.

    Even if it were technically feasible to do it, allowing the OS to run on stock run of the mill PCs, if it had good performance would certainly cut into their hardware profits, it makes no sense.

  • Tim Priest

    Max wrote:

    ” It’s no secret that the heritage of Mac OS X is the Mac OS, but also NeXTStep, which always ran on X86 hardware.”

    BUZZZ. Sorry, no cigar. NeXTStep actually ran on Moto CPUs to begin with not x86. It was OpenStep that started the x86 ball rolling if I remember correctly.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    danp wrote “Why can’t this be the other way around? Running Windows on PPC chips?”

    From a marketing perspective, that would make no sense. If you were a software developer and knew that Macs could run Windows software, why would you make the effort to do a Mac OS X native version of your application?

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    dg wrote ” I think apple would have almost the same problems with PC hardware due to the chaos and slapstick nature of the PC hack-together anything market.”

    Indeed, and that’s why any Intel-based version of OS X would only run on Apple machines, with Intel processors inside. It all hinges on the BIOS, if Apple writes its own, and ties it tightly to the OS, it would be easy to ensure that only Apple machines could boot OS X. Of course, The only danger would be that it would be possible to reverse engineer it, and for someone to produce a “Mac compatible” BIOS. However, whether this would be worth anyone’s time and money to do is another matter…

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Jake wrote “I can’t imagine why Apple would choose now when there appears to be so much momentum behind the PowerPC (G5 and Cell Processor)…”

    G5 doesn’t appear to have that much momentum – upgrades are as sluggish coming as those for G4 were. Cell is (1) unproven, and (2) not here. You’d have to be very, very brave to bet your company on it – or desperate, as Sony is.

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Tim wrote “BUZZZ. Sorry, no cigar. NeXTStep actually ran on Moto CPUs to begin with not x86. It was OpenStep that started the x86 ball rolling if I remember correctly.”

    Yes, NeXTStep ran on Motorola 68030 hardware initially. However, NeXTStep was fully ported to Intel in the form of NeXTStep 3.1 (also known as NeXTSTEP 486), and was also ported to PA-RISC and SPARC. OPENSTEP was the development environment/API which ran on top of another OS – specifically, Solaris (running on SPARC), or Windows NT 4 on Intel.

  • John

    Sooner OSX runs on intel the better. Hardware is technically much faster eg FSB. Apple could also create some descently designed PCS.

  • Jason

    Yes, but what we are talking about here is porting over a UNIX background that was originally already for the x86 platform. The gui should be easy to port over because it has nothing to do with how the computer runs, its just telling Darwin which commands to run. I hope they do put Tiger on the x86 platform because I’ll be the first person in line waiting to buy a copy.