Is it the end of the road for Hackintosh?

Yea, that ain’t Apple

TL: DR

For the longest time since the Apple II dropped decades ago, Apple has been a champion of the ‘closed environment school of thought; i.e. the customisation and tooling options for Apple products — hardware and software, are limited to what Apple ships. This ranges from the special ‘Pentalobe’ needed to open up the casing of a device, down to the systems that can run the various software from Apple, including the macOS.

Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that this approach has a lot many merits than we can count on our hands, only one of which is that since the hardware is designed specifically to run the in-house software and vice versa, the performance delivered is usually bafflingly better than devices that feature the similar or even at times slightly better specifications.

That said, growing up and in my time as a software professional, I have come across a lot many individuals who yearn for a little more juice in their Macs — a few more gigs of RAM, better graphics performance, you get the idea. And is always the case, the tweakers that we are as a people, we figured a way to get the best of both worlds — Apple’s software and state-of-the-art hardware.

Enter Hackintosh

Put simply, a Hackintosh is a computer system that runs some version of Apple’s flagship macOS(or OS X, when it used to be called that) on not run-of-the-mill Apple hardware, but a custom assembled terminals, usually in an effort to get better system performance at a hardware-level without compromising on the software(this is looking at you, Windows).

The Internet — not the shady stuff like Dark Web but the actual, public internet, has countless websites and forums dedicated to supporting and providing resources for setting up your very own Hackintosh. And this is apart from standalone Medium posts, etc. that guide you through the process. Given how Apple is trigger-happy to a fault and could end up suing me on the off-chance that they read this, I will hold the reserve and not list out links to any such pages but it’s easy to find — all you have to do is use this wonderful tool known as Google.

Personally, I’m not the staunchest fan of the Hackintosh(because I’m a stubborn purist when it comes to that), but I completely see where its users come from. And hey, tinkering is fun. What? Is it cool only when grease-monkeys do it?

That’s fantastic!

Yes, I see your excitement. And perhaps even an urge to explore this and maybe whip up a Hackintosh of your own. But wait for it. Things may change soon.

A knockout punch(?) named M1

In late 2020, as we were trying to recover from the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Apple unveiled something they had been working on for a while—an SoC(System on Chip) developed and fabricated in-house, codenamed M1 and referred to by many today as Apple silicon. As if this wasn’t enough, they also debuted their latest line of MacBooks(Air and Pro, 13" variants) in two distinct options — devices that looked exactly the same and featured the exact same specifications, but one set powered by Intel’s i-series chip(like their predecessors since the PowerPC fiasco) and another powered by their very own M1 chip.

More than half a year later, it’s safe to say that it wasn’t even a contest. Yes, Apple had proclaimed that their new chips were leaps and bounds ahead of the Intel ones they used but turns out that was an understatement. So much so that the base variant of their M1 MacBook Air line caught up and at times even trumped their best spec-ed MacBook till then, the 16" MacBook Pro. Since software written for Intel chips wouldn’t run natively on the ARM-based M1, an emulator known as Rosetta was required to run most of the existing applications. However, in a surprisingly quick uptake, developers have already shipped out stable versions of their apps that run natively on the M1, over the past few months.

Okay, M1. Sounds good. But what’s that got to do with Hackintosh?

I’m glad you asked. You see, the church which is the Hackintosh is built on the rock that Mac devices also use Intel chips available in the open market, meaning that finding compatible hardware has been no biggie and that we can get Apple’s software to run on it with little to no change. What if that rock crumbled — what if, tomorrow, Apple decides to stop writing software that runs on Intel’s silicon, but exclusively for their in-house option?

Obviously, it isn’t going to happen tomorrow. Hells it may not even happen for a year or two(I guess). But slowly but surely, Apple is going to discontinue devices that use Intel chips, what with almost all of their Mac devices getting an M1 variant, most recently the iMac(feel free to take a moment to pull your hair out over the coloured iMacs — seriously, what were they high on?). Sooner than later, all their Mac devices will have an(or in some case only an) Mx variant. Gradually, Apple would set the ball rolling on phasing out their Intel-powered devices, unless something cataclysmic happens with the Apple silicon god forbid, which seems extremely unlikely. And part of the phasing-out would obviously be discontinuing updates and support for Intel software until a point where any piece of code from Apple will completely cease to run on anything non-Apple.

Do you now see how the Apple silicon may be the grave in which Hackintosh gets buried? Given how it’s almost certain that Apple won’t sell their silicon on the open market, Hackiontoshes will be all but done for — what’s the point of all that cool if the software isn’t gonna run on it?

Maybe this was Apple’s plan all along. Or maybe this was a happy and rather serendipitous accident. Whatever the case, now more than ever, there’s a real possibility that Hackintosh as we know it today, seemingly has a bleak future in store.

Anyways, I hope you had a fun time reading this story. If you did, show some love, throw in a few claps(you can actually give more than one clap, did you know that?), pitch in with your thoughts on comments, share this story around.

One last thing…

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Software Developer | Blogger | Part-time Nerd

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