A Brief History of

By David Morgenstern  |  Posted 2006-01-10 Print this article Print

Multiple Booting and the Mac OS"> Longtime Apple watchers can recall when multiple booting was a primary strategy in Cupertino, Calif. In fact, the plans were a part of the companys vision to license the Mac operating system—one of the first things that CEO Steve Jobs stomped down upon his return to Apple in 1997.
All in all, theres plenty of irony to go around in multiboots latest incarnation, the new Mactel machines. There once was a time when IT managers could look forward to running about 7 operating systems on a single hardware platform.
Heres an annotated timeline: In late 1991, Apple, IBM and Motorola formed an alliance to save the computer industry through the PowerPC RISC processors. The companies said the competing CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computer) architecture used in Intel processors, among others, would shortly run smack into a techno-roadblock that would bring computing progress to a crawl in the areas of performance, heat buildup and power consumption. Do Mac users miss all the security fun? Read more here. In addition to the RISC processor itself, IBM pushed the concept of a hardware reference platform called PReP (PowerPC Reference Platform). The design provided a description for a logic board running a PowerPC processor and a range of mandated I/O ports and bus architectures. A surprising list of OS makers pledged support for the platform: Microsoft with Windows NT, IBM with AIX and OS/2, and Novell with Processor Independent Netware. A version of Windows already ran under emulation software on the PowerPC. And Sun Microsystems executives said at the time that a port of Solaris "would require little effort." However, bringing the Mac OS onboard proved elusive. It wasnt until November 1994 that the "AIM Alliance" announced that Apple would join the party with System 7.5, running on a new, improved and renamed CHRP (Common Hardware Reference Platform). The coalitions efforts were on display in a large circus tent erected outside the Las Vegas convention center for Comdex. The arrival of Apple would bring other changes to the platform with the inclusion of Apple legacy I/O ports and controllers, such as its flavor of SCSI, the LocalTalk networking interface and the ADB (Apple Desktop Bus) peripheral port. With the choice of a controller, PC or Mac makers could make a machine that supported both Mac and PC I/O—the multiboot machine—or just the Mac OS. Instead of BIOS, the machines used Open Firmware (IEEE 1275) drivers stored on a boot ROM, which configured the system hardware. Analysts and execs touted the combo of a true 32-bit operating system with a high-performance, 32-bit RISC processor. Some said the platform could quickly pick up as much as a 30 percent market share. Following the announcement event, an Intel spokesperson said, "Looks like they have a couple of years to get where Intel is today … Were not quaking in our boots." At a spring 1995 briefing, then Apple R&D chief Dave Nagel told me that "CHRP is particularly good for the IS guy." Since enterprise managers wouldnt want to be tied to a particular hardware and operating system combination for developmental tools, "It just reduces risk," he said. This dream fell apart over the course of several years as OS makers decided to skip the platform. Microsoft was first, then the others, until it was down to AIX and the Mac operating system. Apple continued its strategy of licensing the Mac OS until the summer of 1997, when Steve Jobs killed the remaining deals and kept the next-generation Power PC G3 upgrade cycle for the company. As the expression goes: The rest is history. On the multiple-boot front, Apple may, or may not, have come full circle with its release of Wintel Macs. Editors Note: This story was updated to include information on Windows XPs support for BIOS and EFI. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on Apple in the enterprise.

David Morgenstern is Executive Editor/Special Projects of eWEEK. Previously, he served as the news editor of Ziff Davis Internet and editor for Ziff Davis' Storage Supersite.

In 'the days,' he was an award-winning editor with the heralded MacWEEK newsweekly as well as eMediaweekly, a trade publication for managers of professional digital content creation.

David has also worked on the vendor side of the industry, including companies offering professional displays and color-calibration technology, and Internet video.

He can be reached here.


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