Apple opens the kernel for Intel OS-X (10.4xxx)

Written by Brett Thomas

August 9, 2006 | 17:10

Tags: #kernel #macintosh #osx #steve-jobs

Companies: #apple #open-source

Open Source is a name that sings of lofty ideals and intelligent design to many enthusiasts. Usually, the word 'cool' doesn't come into play. But now, one of the most lauded operating systems has made the move - OS-X 10.4.7 is now open source. Oh, did we mention that the Intel version is, too?

Apple has released the source into the wild under the Apache 2.0 license, an interesting and rather nifty little open source animal. If you're unfamiliar with the terms, I highly recommend a little read-up on it at the Open Source website. But the gist of it is that you are allowed to modify code and copyright particular modifications as your own, so long as you allow the modifications to be freely distributed for this particular use alone. This is different than several other licenses, where once you release your own changes you've given them freely to the world.

The announcement comes in conjunction with Apple's developer conference (WWDC). Along with the kernel, the company has released source for iCal, Bonjour, and Launchd. iCal will now be developed solely within MacOS Forge, though the other programs are being updated for Leopard via closed source. There's only one catch - source code for drivers has not yet been released, and if any will be at all is still under speculation. Of course, since the kernel is now open source, driver development from homebrew users will probably be very quick, and likely encompass considerably more hardware than Apple originally intended.

Apple is clearly making a statement by opening up its kernel for all to see, but it is also a pretty slick feature-building move. By examining the modifications people do with Tiger's code, Apple can make some last-minute additions to Leopard before release. The creation of MacOS-Forge also provides a nice way to gain multi-platform acceptance, as Mac programs get ported to other OS's, and programmers learn how to port other programs to run with the OS-X kernel.

It's a nice move, though it unfortunately does not have the breadth of something like Vista's public beta...Macs are already only a tiny fraction of the computer population, and this now requires that the contributors understand programming for them before they can offer anything of substance. Still, it is definitely a positive step for the operating system, which has previously been one of the most clandestine pieces of code in existence.

Got a thought on the release? Does it even matter now that you've seen some of the 'bling' from Leopard? Let us know your thoughts in our forums.
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