Following the news earlier this week that Apple might offer a laptop-tablet hybrid based on the iPad, details have now emerged of a project to port the full-blown OS X environment to run on ARM processors, which might hint at a future ARM-based MacBook Air.
Citigroup analyst Richard Gardner sparked much discussion with a research note in which he speculated that Apple might offer an ARM-based version of MacBook Air at some point. However, he concluded that the company felt that the iPad better met the desires of consumers at the moment.
Now, many sources on the web have seized on the publication of a research project by a student intern working at Apple during 2010 to port OS X to an ARM-based chip.
The student found that much work would need to be done to get OS X successfully ported to run on ARM-based systems, but the very existence of the project is likely to fuel speculation that this is something Apple may still be planning for the future.
However, application compatibility could be a stumbling block. While iOS is derived from Mac OS X and both are based on the Darwin core code, applications for the iPhone and iPad are not compatible with OS X, but are written and compiled specifically for iOS and the ARM architecture.
This would mean that while Apple could produce an ARM-based MacBook Air, such a device would be unable to run existing Mac applications, unless developers also undertook to port these to ARM.
Daniel Robinson is technology editor at V3, and has been working as a technology journalist for over two decades. Dan has served on a number of publications including PC Direct and enterprise news publication IT Week. Areas of coverage include desktops, laptops, smartphones, enterprise mobility, storage, networks, servers, microprocessors, virtualisation and cloud computing.