In 2010, Apple’s Platform Technologies Group (a subdivision of the CoreOS department) was working on a project to port the Mac OS X Darwin kernel to the ARMv5 chipset architecture. This chipset comes from the same family of chipsets that currently power iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad.
Here is a snippet from the project, titled Porting Darwin to the MV88F6281, subtitled ARMing the Snow Leopard:
The goal of this project is to get Darwin into a workable state on the MV88F6281 processor so that other teams can continue their work on this platform. The project has three major milestones:
1. Getting the buildsystem into shape, so that it can build the kernel and kexts.
2. Building and booting the kernel into single user mode.
3. Booting the system into multi-user mode.
This project was made public, several months ago. While iOS also uses the Darwin kernel, this project involved Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. The project was left for the CoreOS teams to continue. Mac OS X 10.7 Lion has been shipped. So have newer generations of iPad and MacBook Air. None of them have any sign of MAC OS X on ARM. That is why, it is unknown if this project is still going on or whether it has been shelved. However, the author of the paper is now a full-time employee at Apple, working as a CoreOS Engineer.
Some people may find the idea of a Mac OS X iPad intriguing. Tablet PC, which put full Microsoft Windows on a tablet, never achieved the success to be compared with iPad. It, like Mac OS X, was simply not designed for a multitouch user interface. Microsoft is currently working on Windows 8. There are plans that Windows 8 will have both a Windows Phone-like Metro user interface optimized for tablets, and a Windows 7-like interface for desktops and laptops. Instead of making MacBook Airs with ARM processors, Apple decided to take iOS software “Back to the Mac” instead with OS X 10.7 Lion.
There are speculations of late that Apple would continue to move iOS towards the Mac, as opposed to moving the Mac to ARM.
However, 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. Making it compatible with more chips can make more sale-worthy.
Following is a snippet, describing the project related to this development with some information about the company:
About the Platform Technologies Group
As it was described by a manager: “We do the plumbing, if we do our jobs right, you never see it.”. The Platform Technologies Group, a subdivision of the Core OS department, works on the embedded platforms that Apple maintains. Here, platforms are brought up and the embedded kernel and lower level support for the platforms is maintained.
What is Darwin?
Darwin is the lower half of the Mac OSX operating system. It includes the XNU kernel which is based on the Mach microkernel, and the userland.
What is the MV88F6281?
The MV88F6281 is an ARMv5te compatible processor from Marvell. It is based on their custom Sheeva core, which is designed to be like the ARM926EJ-S core from ARM. It has all the features you?d expect from a modern CPU, including several high speed SERDES lanes, a Harvard L1 cache, and 128kb of unified L2 cache.
What do you think about this secret project whose status is unclear? Voice your opinion through comments.