Apple Wins Patent for Cloud-Based OS
Apple was awarded a patent
yesterday for ways to administer a network-booted operating system, in the strongest indication yet that the company is looking towards a cloud-based OS at some point in the future. The patent was filed in 2006 and is based on one that was originally filed in 1999, showing the longevity of Apple's interest in net-bootable computers. As Chrome OS finally comes to light, this development work at Apple suggests that the company may be preparing to take its war with Google into the cloud.
The patent, "Method and apparatus for administering the operating system of a net-booted environment," specifically deals with the ability to boot an OS over the network: any network, be it a corporate LAN or the Internet. Unlike Google's Chrome OS, which boots from a Linux kernel and runs cloud-based apps in a browser window, the future Apple operating system would be "downloaded as a computer program product, wherein the program may be transferred from a remote computer (e.g., a server) to a requesting computer (e.g., a client) by way of data signals embodied in a carrier wave or other propagation medium via a communication link (e.g., a modem or network connection)." Administrators would be able to remotely manage multiple connected network computers, providing system updates that would be downloaded in the background.
The patent document clearly shows its 90s roots, down to old-school network diagrams showing huge 20th-century tower servers and what look like Macintosh Classics as the clients. And much of the technology builds on the NetBoot system which has been a part of Mac OS X Server since the very first version. However, with the advent of cloud computing in the intervening years, the technology exists now to take this capability to the next level. There have been many hints over the last few months - the well-known giant data center
in North Carolina and the job listing seeking network engineers to develop a "revolutionary
" OS - suggesting this is exactly Apple's plan. Could the long-rumored "xOS," successor to both Mac OS X and iOS, be a cloud OS? And what might it take to jailbreak that
? This decade already looks interesting.