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VNU Net: Apple’s core goes open source

By John Leyden, VNU Net

Apple has opened the code at the heart of the next version of
its Mac operating system to let external developers help enhance
its features and performance.

The company this week unveiled Darwin 1.0, the software at the
core of Mac OS X. The code is based on FreeBSD and Mach 3.0
technologies, and supports the Kernel Extension Developer Kit for
developing drivers and loadable modules. The code can be compiled
on both PowerPC and Intel platforms but will not, as yet, run on
Intel PCs.

Not all of the source code for OS X will be made available to
open source programmers. Mac OS X software, which depends on
higher-level features such as the Cocoa and Carbon toolkits, will
not run on a standalone Darwin system.

Ernest Prabhakar, project manager of Darwin, urged developers to
develop software for the system. “You should now feel free to write
enhancements, fix bugs and expand driver support – and know that
your work will be compatible with future versions of Mac OS X. This
release even includes rudimentary Intel support for those of you
who’d like to make Darwin a full cross-platform operating
system.”

Luke Tindall, a computer development officer at Exeter
University, said it is not yet clear whether Apple is merely
jumping on the open source bandwagon. “Linux is behind Windows and
Mac on multimedia, but there’s no reason it can’t catch up,” he
said. He added that it is highly debatable whether Mac would match
Linux for networking ability.

Philip Schiller, Apple’s vice president of worldwide product
marketing, said: “The core of Mac OS X is the only mainstream
operating system following an open source model. It’s open to our
customers and developers so that we may collaborate on the future
of the Mac OS.”

In addition to Darwin, Apple also announced an update to the
Darwin Streaming Server, the open source version of Apple’s
Quicktime Streaming Server software.