Apple OS X to ARM port progress revealed

Apple's work on porting OS X to ARM processors has been revealed by an academic paper the company initially insisted on keeping secret, potentially paving the way to the much-rumored ARM-based MacBook Air. The handiwork of former intern turned CoreOS engineer Tristan Schaap, the project - "Porting Darwin to the MV88F6281" – detailed how the underlying part of OS X was coaxed into running on a Marvell ARM chipset.

Schaap managed to get OS X Snow Leopard "booting into a multi-user prompt" on the Marvell chipset, though there were lingering hardware issues that persisted. In the process, he needed to build a filesystem and kernelcache from the ground up, as well as work around old code in the existing ARMv5 branch of XNU.

A proper release, he suggested, would first require significant reworking of elements of code, along with new drivers to "fully utilize the potential" of Apple's hardware. Apps themselves would also need to be re-written – or ported from ARM-based platforms – as well.

Nonetheless, it adds to ongoing suspicions that Apple is at least considering using ARM-based chips – such as the company's own A5 and upcoming A6, as currently used in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S – in notebooks as well as tablets and phones. At least one prototype MacBook Air running on an Apple A5 chipset has been reported, performing "better than expected", though it was not specified whether it was running iOS or OS X.

[via Apple Insider]