Intel deal may mean end to OS 9 support

Documentation on move to Intel chips says transcoding software will not support programs written for Mac OS 8 or Mac OS 9.

SAN FRANCISCO--Apple Computer's move to Intel chips appears to spell the eventual end of support for older, pre-Mac OS X programs.

Current versions of Mac OS X support the running of Mac OS 9 programs in a "Classic" environment. However, documentation for Apple's Rosetta technology says the transcoding software will not support programs written for Mac OS 8 or Mac OS 9.

Rosetta was announced by CEO Steve Jobs on Monday as the translation software technology that will help ease Apple's planned transition to Intel-based chips. Rosetta will allow most Mac OS X programs to run on Intel-based Macs even if the software has not been compiled to run natively on Intel chips.

In an interview, Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller did not definitively address future Classic mode support but said "it's certainly not very high on the priority list."

Schiller said Apple research shows few new Mac buyers are using Classic.

"In recent versions of Mac OS X, we actually stopped installing Classic by default because very few--if any--people use it anymore," Schiller said. "We've done research to determine who buying new products from us is using Classic. You really can't find hardly anyone who does anymore."

An Apple representative declined to comment further on future support of Classic.

Classic came into being with the arrival of Mac OS X in 2001 as a way to run programs that had not been "Carbonized," or modified to run natively in the new operating system.

Though the transition could pave the way for the end of OS 9 support, Apple has long predicted its death, with Jobs first delivering that message to developers in May 2002.

For some time, Apple continued to sell a limited number of models with OS 9, primarily for schools and some business customers. More recently, though, OS 9 compatibility has come only through Classic.

People who are running Classic programs aren't out of time yet. Apple plans to continue selling PowerPC machines for the next two years, so presumably customers have at least that long to buy machines capable of running Classic applications.

CNET News.com's Declan McCullagh contributed to this report.

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