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Wednesday, June 08, 2005, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)

Transitive supplying Apple with foundation for Rosetta technology

Transitive Technologies confirmed Tuesday that it is providing Apple with technology that allows old Macintosh software programs to run on computers with Intel processors.

The Los Gatos, Calif.-based company of 65 has been working with Apple on Rosetta, a dynamic binary translator that runs PowerPC code on Intel-based Macs transparently to the users and without a significant speed decrease.

"Steve was nice enough to recognize a relationship with us,'' Bob Wiederhold, CEO of Transitive, told The Mercury News. "Our efforts involve integrating our technology into their system software.''

Rosetta is an integral piece of Apple's transition to Intel-based Macs because it means consumers won't have to throw away their old software when they buy a new computer from Apple with Intel chips.

Transitive's translation software reportedly consists of three parts: The first is a decoder, which takes the code of the PowerPC binary and converts it into an intermediate format. Next, a "core processing engine" takes the intermediate format and calculates how fast it can run the older software in its new form.

The final part converts the software into a form that runs on the Intel-based Mac. "This software sits on the computer, in this case an Apple computer that uses Intel chips," writes The Mercury News. "Whenever a consumer clicks on an old Apple program loaded onto the computer, the translation software starts. It translates and leaves the final code stored in the system's main memory chips. If the consumer uses that software again, the machine can run the translated code from memory."

Such translation software has reportedly existed for decades, but because memory used to be a scarce commodity the translation usually slowed the speed of the computer significantly.

According to Wiederhold, the technology uses only about 25 percent more memory to run the PowerPC binaries on Intel chips when compared to the original application. He said his team figured out how to perform translation "at roughly 70 percent to 80 percent of the speed at which it ran on the original computer."