Apples Intel Switch Could Kill Classic Support

By Matthew Broersma  |  Posted 2005-06-07

Apple Computer Inc.s switch to Intel chips may kill Mac OS 9 support once and for all.

While Apple has not specifically addressed the issue, the Rosetta software designed to provide compatibility for PowerPC applications on Intel-based Macs will not support applications built for OS 9 or older systems, according to the softwares technical documentation.

Apple promises that newer OS X applications will be relatively simple to convert for Intel, and new applications for Intel Macs will be designed to run on PowerPC Macs as well using universal binaries optimized for both platforms. Rosetta is designed to fill in the gaps, for applications that havent yet been or will never be converted, according to Apple.

Click here to read more about porting OS X applications to Intel.

However, Rosettas support for PowerPC applications is variable. Applications without heavy processing requirements, such as word processors, should be fine, while performance will decrease for more processor-intensive applications or those using OpenGL, according to the company. The software with the highest computational requirements, such as 3-D modeling applications, isnt supported.

Rosetta is designed for software reliant on G3 processors, so it doesnt run applications requiring G4 or G5 processors, according to documentation. Also incompatible are some Java applications, code written for AltiVec, applications depending on kernel extensions and OS 8 and OS 9 software.

Lack of support for OS 9 could be a problem for certain types of users, including core Apple markets such as schools and graphic design shops. Much education software still relies on OS 9 because of slow hardware and software upgrade cycles in the education market.

In the graphic design industry, many still prefer tried-and-tested OS 9 applications over their relatively new OS X counterparts. QuarkXPress, one of the most important Mac design applications, was only released for OS X in 2003, and some designers still consider it inferior to older versions.

Adobe says it will create versions of its Creative Suite for Macintosh to run on both PowerPC and Intel processors. Click here to read more.

Apple made OS X the default operating system on most new Macs in early 2003, about two years after the new operating systems first release, but even then it was forced to continue providing some OS 9 Macs, mainly for schools and designers. Current OS X systems have scrapped the ability to boot directly into OS 9, accessing the older OS via the Classic environment.

The company has long warned developers that OS 9 is on its way out, and executives have made it clear that Classic support is a low priority for the company. Apple representatives could not immediately confirm the companys plans for OS 9.

Apple is planning to release the first commercial Mac systems running on Intel processors next summer, with the transition expected to be complete by the end of 2007.

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