Two years ago, Tristan Schaap joined Apple’s Platform Technologies Group as an intern.
During his 12-week stint with the Core OS division, he worked on a project to get a piece of Mac OS X running on an ARM processor, says a report by iMore. Most people were not aware of this project until recently, when the Netherland’s Delft University of Technology made Schaap’s thesis available to the public.
Schaap’s project was very specific – he worked with Darwin and ported it to a Marvell ARMv5te processor. Some of the ARMv5 code was present in Darwin and his job was to get it to work in both single-user mode and multi-user mode.
His report doesn’t say why Apple assigned him this project, but as OSNews points out, it’s possible Apple wanted to test his mettle and introduce him to the company during his 12-week tenure. Technically, Apple couldn’t use his code because the project’s Marvell ARMv5 processor is not found in any Apple hardware. It even predates the Samsung ARMv6 core which powered the original iPhone. Also, it’s highly unlikely Apple would assign an important project like the OS X/ARM port to an intern.
Speculation about an ARM-based MacBook Air gained momentum after Microsoft announced that its new desktop OS, Windows 8, will support ARM hardware. This opens the door to ultra-portable notebooks and tablets with exceptional battery life and all the features of a full desktop OS. Whether this strategy will be successful, remains to be seen as Microsoft’s last gamble to bridge tablets and PCs, a project with the codename Origami, failed miserably.