Mac OS X on x86 reviewed

It's been proven that OS X can be hacked to run on Intel's x86 hardware platform, but is the performance going to suffer?

Almost as soon as Apple released their OS X for Intel developer kit, enterprising hackers undid the security scheme that was supposed to prevent it from being installed on any old generic beige box. In addition to being able to install OS X on a cheap PC from Wal-Mart, they've turned it into a sport to see how cheap you can build an x86 Mac.

I'm not interested in installing the hacks to try to get OS X running on one of my old PCs—I already have OS X running on a perfectly serviceable PowerBook G4—I'm waiting for the Intel Macs to be announced so that I can dual boot into Windows XP on those rare occasions when I need to run something that'll only run on Windows. Let's hope that the powers that be in Cupertino allow us to dual boot our Intel Macs.

That didn't stop my colleagues at ZDNet UK from giving it a go however. Those crazy brits threw caution to the wind and installed the OS X developer kit on a Toshiba laptop

Mac OS X looks in amazingly good early form on the x86 platform. As far as power consumption and OS performance are concerned, it can already keep up with Windows XP. Application performance clearly lags behind, though, and still needs to improve.

While it's a violation of every EULA and developer NDA imaginable, ZDNet's test proves that OS X on Intel is viable, but more than that it proves that x86 users are looking for alternatives to the Windows OS. I doubt that Apple will release OS X for generic Intel boxes any time soon, as it will surely cannibalize their hardware business, but it may force Apple to consider becoming a software company in the interest of greater market share.

If Apple plays their cards right and allows the Intel Macs to dual boot (sans hack), they'll lift one of the major barriers in the platform wars of the past two decades. Users will finally have a choice of OSes and they won't have to resort to surreptitious methods to get them. The last remining barrier to the Mac OS taking over the world will be price, and Apple will have to learn to compete in that arena.