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Apple aims to protect Rosetta mark

Computer maker applies for trademark for the translation technology that allows Mac programs to run on forthcoming Intel-based machines.

Apple Computer has applied for a trademark for Rosetta, the translation technology that will act as a bridge as Apple moves to Intel chips beginning next year.

The Mac maker applied last week for trademark protection for the Rosetta moniker. Apple is encouraging developers to create Intel-compatible versions of their products, but it has also announced plans to offer Rosetta, a built-in emulation software that will allow much of the software written for PowerPC-based Macs to run on the new Intel machines.

Apple has not pinned an exact date when the first Intel machines will arrive, saying only that they should be on the market by June. Some analysts have said that the first machines could come as early as January's Macworld Expo in San Francisco.

Although many major software makers have committed to adding Intel support to their software, it is unclear how quickly that support will come. Adobe, for example, has said it will support Intel-based Macs with future versions of its software, but doesn't plan to retrofit its Creative Suite 2 products to work with the new Macs.

Hence the need for Rosetta.

Company executives have described Rosetta as "Apple technology," but it uses an engine from a start-up company called Transitive, which offers a variety of engines for translating software written for one operating system or processor to code that can run on a different configuration.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs did confirm to the New York Times that Transitive is playing a role, but company executives have not elaborated. In a June interview with CNET News.com, Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller declined to say how much of Rosetta was developed in-house. "I'm not going to talk about details, but it's Apple technology," Schiller said.

Rosetta will allow many existing Mac programs to run on new Intel-based Macs, but it does have some limitations. Apple has said that Rosetta is "designed to translate currently shipping applications that run on a PowerPC with a G3 processor and that are built for Mac OS X."

However, Apple said Rosetta can't run several types of code, including programs that are written specifically to use the PowerPC's AltiVec instructions; those that require a G4 or G5 chip; and programs written for Mac OS 8 and Mac OS 9 that run today in Mac OS X's "classic" mode.

"How compatible your application is with Rosetta depends on the type of application it is," Apple said in a paper for developers that came out in June. "Applications that have a lot of user interaction and low computational needs, such as a word processor, are quite compatible. Those that have a moderate amount of user interaction and some high computational needs or that use OpenGL are, in most cases, also quite compatible. Those that have intense computing needs aren't compatible."

Apple's Rosetta trademark application was earlier noted by Mac enthusiast site Macsimum News.