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.
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