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In bed with embedded Mac OS X

Word is, the Apple iPhone is running the new, soon-to-be-released Mac OS X 10.5 operating system, otherwise known as Leopard. Thing is, that’d make perfect sense. If there’s one thing that Apple likes, it’s complete control. This would also explain why parts of the iPhone are still not complete, under construction, if you will.

What with their dependency on Mac OS X 10.5, the iPhone would be reliant on the the progress of the operating system, which is due for release some time in or around spring:

“The iPhone is said to run a reduced version of Mac OS X that is ‘well under’ a gigabyte in size, perhaps even as small as 512MB, while keeping Core Animation.”

This very reasonable rumour raises some interesting issues, not least the possibility of Apple rolling out all kinds of devices running an embedded version of Mac OS X, such as the Apple TV, for example:

“The Apple TV has animations and transitions a la Core Animation as well as handling protected file formats, QuickTime-powered video, and talking to other Macs and PCs over the network to synchronize files and store them on a (probably HFS+) internal drive.”

So might it be there’s already a version of Mac OS X 10.4 running as an embedded operating system within the Apple TV, or a stripped-down, simpler version of Mac OS X 10.5 which is stable enough to let out into the wild.

So where else might we expect to find the more slim line, svelte edition of Mac OS X?

“The new AirPort Extreme not only handles printer sharing, but disk sharing over AFP and SMB with folder-level access controls for multiple disks. This effectively makes this little base station a network-attached storage device for the home. User-upgradable as well.”

What we do know is that Apple would probably not make a song & dance about an embedded version of Mac OS X, not like the branding and the marketing frenzy that surrounds Microsoft Windows Mobile, for example.

What are the benefits of an ’embedded’ version of Mac OS X?

Well that’s pretty simple: Apple have complete control over what can be done on their devices and aren’t restricted by the limitations of what some other operating system developer deems fit to include in their OS.

In addition, consistency and simplicity – which are words often synonymous with Apple – are brought to these devices by way of the operating system, which extends the tools and the features of Mac OS X to such portable devices.

And finally, Apple get to move at their own pace and have more control over schedules and probably more importantly in certain situations, the level of secrecy and discretion surrounding the development of these products.

As we’ve seen in the past, loose lips sink ship dates.

The future .. and beyond!

It’s not inconceivable to imagine Apple trotting out a whole new class of portable devices and consumer products that offer the possibility of re-defining an entire industry, just as the iPod has and continues to do so, and the iPhone offers the tantalizing prospect of doing the same…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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