Apple Intern Worked On ‘Secret’ Project Porting Mac OS X To ARM

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Mac OS X on iPad

While Apple has previously dismissed the idea of porting its entire Mac OS X operating system to ARM-powered mobile devices, the Cupertino company has at least been working on it. That’s according to one intern who worked with Apple’s Platform Technologies Group — a subdivision of the CoreOS department — for four months back in 2010. But does it really mean anything?

Tristan Schaap wrote a thesis on his time at Apple shortly after he left the company in 2010, but he was unable to publish it until August 16 2011, when an embargo protecting the sensitive subject matter was lifted. It’s now available for anyone to read, and it details Apple’s work on porting its Snow Leopard desktop operating system to devices powered by ARM processors.

iMore points to this particular section of Schaap’s report:

The goal of this project is to get Darwin into a workable state on the MV88F6281 processor so that other teams can continue their work on this platform. The project has three major milestones:

  1. Getting the buildsystem into shape, so that it can build the kernel and kexts.
  2. Building and booting the kernel into single user mode.
  3. Booting the system into multi-user mode.

iMore notes that since Apple started working on this “secret” project, it has shipped new MacBook Airs and a new iPad; neither of which show any sign of Mac OS X on ARM. It’s unclear if the project is ongoing at Apple’s Cupertino campus or whether it has now been dropped. But Schaap is now a full-time employee at Apple, working as a CoreOS engineer.

So what does Schaap’s thesis suggest? Well, many have jumped to the conclusion that it means Apple was — and could still be — planning to port Mac OS X to a device like the iPad. But we’re skeptical of that. After all, we already know that the company is so secretive that new employees must work on “fake” products until they can be trusted, so why would they allow an intern to work on a project as big as bringing Mac OS X to the iPad?

Furthermore, I think it’s safe to assume if this thesis revealed any details about Apple’s future plans, Schaap would no longer be an Apple employee. What’s included in his report must now be largely insignificant.