IBM buys Transitive – possible problem for SGI and Apple users?

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Transitive are the guys who came up with the immensely clever emulation software that allows MIPS code to run on x86 and Itanium platforms. Apple also licensed a version called Rosetta, which enables PowerPC code to run on their newer x86 machines. Intel and Sun are users as well, allowing legacy SPARC code to run on Solaris on x86.

IBM have been using Transitive software for a while, allowing legacy x86 code to run on their Power machines. So the news that IBM has bought transitive could herald some problems ahead, especially with IBM saying “IBM is evaluating Transitive’s other products as part of its overall Systems product strategy.”

Hmm. You could argue that, come on, MIPS for SGI and PowerPC for Apple died years ago, upgrade already. Maybe that’s true for Apple, but a lot of Silicon Graphics gear is bought for the long haul, and isn’t part of the usual 2-3 year cycle of upgrades that desktops and workgroup servers get. A lot of MIPS based kit is still in support and still being heavily used – although the market can’t grow any more, that installed base isn’t shrinking too rapidly either.

It’s unclear at this stage what effect IBM dropping non-Power support for Transitive would have. Presumably new customers with MIPS gear would be left in the cold (although they’ve left it a bit late to think about a migration) but with no new versions of IRIX coming out it’s doubtful the announcement would have any effect on existing users.

Apple appear to have licensed Transitive code as Rosetta and bundled it into OS X. With Snow Leopard (10.6) rumoured to totally drop PowerPC support, no longer having an emulation layer in the OS could be a non-issue.

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