APPLE HAS REMOVED all support for Intel Atom processors from the latest developer build of Snow Leopard, according to a blog post by Stellarola.
Apple's motives for removing the functionality are not clear, but the move is sure to fuel more conjecture about the company's much-fabled tablet device. When the rumour mill first started churning out snippets of (mis)information about the as-yet-vapourware Itablet, everyone assumed that, if it ever materialised, it would run on Atom architecture.
Reports attributed to Cupertino insiders said, however, that Apple engineers were entirely underwhelmed by the performance of Chipzilla's diminutive processor platform. So underwhelmed, in fact, that Steve Jobs got out his cheque book and snapped up chip designer PA Semi, a company that specialises in making the most of Brit chip shop ARM's low draw yet very capable CPU blueprints.
If Apple does release an ultraportable device, whether it be a traditional clamshell netbook or an overgrown Iphone, it certainly won't be cheap, as we have said before. Apple makes premium products for people who care less about price than aesthetics and functionality, so building an entirely new product line down to a price is, quite frankly, never going to happen.
So what do you do if you are on a limited budget but want Snow Leopard in your pocket? Well, as far is Apple is concerned, you'll have to break the law.
Apple's End User Licence Agreement (EULA), which anyone who has ever installed OS X will have read, understood, and digitally signed (what do you mean you just kept clicking the next button?) states that it is illegal to install Snow Leopard, or any other flavour of OS X, on anything other than an Apple branded computer. We have neither the space, nor the inclination, to get into the legal ins and outs of this particular argument in the context of this article, so let's just all agree that, legally, it's all a bit iffy.
Whether it's against the law or not, the Hackintosh community is a force to be reckoned with. Every move Apple makes to stop this loose alliance of hackers from making OS X accessible to all is quickly countermanded. Such is the extent of the support offered by the likes of Hackintosh.com, it is now difficult to find a modern computer platform which won't run OS X, albeit after quite a bit of complicated poking about in the machine's operational innards.
We'll make the sweeping assumption that anyone who is willing to break the law by installing OSX in contravention of Apple's EULA will probably be the kind of cove who won't be too bothered about paying for the operating system in the first place. Don't forget that OS X has none of that Genuine Advantage DRM malarkey attached to it. If you can download an ISO file and burn a DVD you can install it (Don't do this at home kids. It's against the law).
The upshot of all of this is that - armed with a £250 netbook, some slightly dodgy software written by a bunch of self-styled modern day Robin Hoods, and a wanton disregard for the laws of whichever land you happen to be reading this in - you could have a neat little device which runs what many consider to the the most complete and useable operating system currently available. Which has understandably got the Sheriff of Cupertino's tights in a tangle.
Whether Apple's move to exclude the Atom crowd from the party is part of a bigger plan, or just sour grapes, only time will tell. What is certain, however, is that if a new Apple ARM-based pocketable PC is on the horizon, and the Cupertino Cabal is trying to kill off the Hackintosh pretenders to make way for a new incumbent, it will have a fierce battle on its hands.
It doesn't matter how much CPU interrogation the off-the-shelf OS X installer carries out. No matter what Apple does, it will only be a matter of time before a modified kernel tips up to let the Atom-weilding gatecrashers in through the back door. µ
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