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Intel apps on ARM Macs: Apple is preparing to remove translation layers

Apple apparently reserves the right to remove the Rosetta 2 technology built into macOS 11 alias Big Sur, with which Intel programs can run on ARM machines. The developer Steve Moser discovered this while browsing the latest (third) beta version of macOS 11.3, which was released this week. The reasons for this remain in the dark so far; a corresponding string is said not to have existed in earlier Big Sur versions.

According to Moser it says in the text, which is apparently intended for a new warning window, in English that Rosetta will “be removed with the installation of this update”. Another string describes the process in more detail: “Rosetta is no longer available in your region. Applications that require Rosetta will no longer work.” It cannot be said whether the “feature” is actually part of macOS 11.3.


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The integration of such statements does not mean that Apple will actually bury Rosetta 2 in the near future. However, they suggest that the group is preparing to do this – or to have to – at least in individual regions. Moser speculates that this could have legal reasons, but it remains unclear what exactly. Alternatively, Apple could simply prepare for the times ahead.

It is generally accepted that Apple will one day remove Rosetta 2 from macOS for ARM machines. The company already proceeded in a similar way with the switch from PowerPC to Intel. At that time, PowerPC programs continued to run thanks to a translation layer – with Rosetta in its first version. This removed Apple from macOS Lion (Mac OS X 10.7), which was very annoying for users of legacy programs. However, Rosetta was part of the Mac operating system from 2006 to 2010, and the strings that have now been discovered indicate an earlier demise.

Rosetta 2 is doing an excellent job right now. As benchmarks and practical use show, Intel code sometimes runs faster on M1 machines than natively. This makes it possible for many users to switch to ARM machines without much stress, even with a lot of Intel code. A quick end of Rosetta 2 would prevent this – so it would be of little interest to Apple at this point in time.


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