PC/AT BIOS or EFI for future Mactel systems ?

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
One important question that remains in suspend is wether Apple plan on using the PC/AT BIOS or EFI for their Mactel systems.



It is a important question because it defines the interface between the hardware and the software. It's a critical part of the software of a computer.



With the age old BIOS we will have a 16 bits system loader that is not capable to offer a modern mechanism to handle hardware configuration and os boot. It's a huge step back from our current OpenFirmware. But with the BIOS a Mactel Mac will be able to boot a Windows XP, 2003 or Linux operating system right out of the box.



With the new EFI BIOS replacement, we will have a modern os loader able to provide OS with a level of abstraction on top of the hardware. It also support booting in high res mode. It's a more modern, Apple way of doing things. BUT, a Mactel Mac won't be able to a current Windows XP (virtualization needed which is not bad thing except for video acceleration). For linux, EFI will require ELILO and kernel updates. It seems to be already supported by Linux (kernel 2.6 - is the EFI already stable ?). EFI is independant of the underlining architecture (it can be IA32/x86, IA64 (Itanium) or XScale.



We can see several scenarii:



* Apple finds sufficient time to implement a EFI for their first batch of Mactel and we could see EFI as soon as next year.



* Apple encounters to many problems (related to technology and/or strategy) and chooses to implement BIOS.



* Apple implement BIOS for the short term and then switch to EFI at a later date.



What are your point of view on this question ?

Have you other informations on EFI ?
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,146member
    Well after reading a bunch of stuff about EFI that was over my head I came to the conclusion that Apple should go EFI.



    Longhorn has support for EFI I believe so the windows things will be taken care of by the time Powermacs with Intel processors ship.



    I'm not really concerned about dual boot capability if developers can approximate the efficacy of Open Firmware more closely with EFI.
  • Reply 2 of 27
    Yes Longhorn will supports EFI so Mactel computers using EFI should be able to boot into Windows when it will be available.



    Does anyone know if other vendor already sell computer based on EFI ?



    To me it seems that every one is using BIOS today and EFI is plan for after 2006.



    Apple could be one of the first to do so. But then their first machines would only boot MacOS X or Linux.



    As a longtime Mac user I also don't need to boot Windows every day on my Mac but I concerned that it can be a major plus for potential switchers.



    It could be the next step toward increasing Macintosh Market share after this year Mac mini (and the iPod of course).
  • Reply 3 of 27
    maddanmaddan Posts: 75member
    Apple has already said they won't sell or support Windows so whether a Mactel will boot Windows is a non-issue to them. It's up to Microsoft to support or not support the booting of Windows on the Mactels. Apple certainly won't stop anyone from running virtualization software. If EFI is ready in time IMHO the first Mactels will have it.
  • Reply 4 of 27
    fotnsfotns Posts: 301member
    There would be no difficulty at all for Apple to implement EFI, especially since Apple will most likely be using Intel reference designs. In fact Gateway has been using EFI on some of their systems since late 2003, like the Gateway Media Center. And backwards compatibility would not be a problem since EFI includes the ability for legacy boot.



    You can get more information from Intel's EFI page.

    You can also download a sample implementation here. Select download, and fill out the agreement form. Unzip it and in the BUILD\\tools\\bin folder there is a bootable floppy image that you can write with the included dskimage.exe. In a command window type: "dskimage -w efiboot.img". You can play with the EFI shell and compare and contrast it to open firmware. To me it seems like a cross between DOS and open firmware. It's pretty easy to use and seems like a good replacement to the old bios. In a shipping implementation a fancy GUI can be included as well as boot-time apps such as disk partitioning, maintenance utilities, or even ftp or web browsers.
  • Reply 5 of 27
    I also find references to legacy boot in the INTEL EFI documentation.



    Thank you for all your responses, they give a good picture of what can be the future Mactel firmware.



    There is so much more documentation on the INTEL side of the fence than there was on the IBM chips that it will undoubtly generates a lot of rumours...
  • Reply 6 of 27
    mr. memr. me Posts: 3,219member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by FrenchMac

    ...



    There is so much more documentation on the INTEL side of the fence than there was on the IBM chips that it will undoubtly generates a lot of rumours...




    To learn about Apple's PPC-based systems, look up Open Firmware.
  • Reply 7 of 27
    mmmpiemmmpie Posts: 628member
    I think the critical factors in choosing a firmware system will be human factors.



    I just spent an evening laboriously moving data from a dead windows install by floppy, I was just lucky to be able to boot into a freedos with NTFS. How I wished that I could just boot with firewire disk mode enabled.



    Its little things like that which Im sure Apple wont abandon. I think their final decision will be ease of implementation, and I dont think that legacy bios is going to be the easier of the two ( an anyone comment on the presence of target disk mode in the intel dev machines? ).
  • Reply 8 of 27
    fotnsfotns Posts: 301member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by mmmpie

    I think the critical factors in choosing a firmware system will be human factors.



    I just spent an evening laboriously moving data from a dead windows install by floppy, I was just lucky to be able to boot into a freedos with NTFS. How I wished that I could just boot with firewire disk mode enabled.





    You should have used Bart's PE Builder. It makes a bootable Windows XP CD with a desktop environment, and it's free.
  • Reply 9 of 27
    wmfwmf Posts: 1,164member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by mmmpie

    Its little things like that which Im sure Apple wont abandon. I think their final decision will be ease of implementation, and I dont think that legacy bios is going to be the easier of the two ( an anyone comment on the presence of target disk mode in the intel dev machines? ).



    Yeah, I suspect it would be easier to add advanced features like target disk mode as EFI applications than using legacy BIOS.
  • Reply 10 of 27
    Confirmed: Apple will use EFI. At least that's what I was told by someone who would know. Apple is getting a sweet deal by going full on Intel, and Apple will also benefit from shifting a chunk of development over to Intel. Apple can now just lay back and let Intel take care of the CPU, mobo, and hardware/software interfaces like EFI, and get the very best in the industry.



    That's some serious dough that can go towards other projects. Apple is about to blast off, stand back and hold on to your stock!
  • Reply 11 of 27
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,146member
    Quote:

    Confirmed: Apple will use EFI. At least that's what I was told by someone who would know



    I hope this isn't your drunk buddy who can't keep his/her mouth shut after a few drinks



    EFI just feels like Apple WAAAAY more than Bios does. Apple really doesn't have to worry about legacy PC stuff. They can focus strictly on newer technologies. This is why I think Intel has tried to woo people over the years. Intel wants to create cool stuff but companies trying to keep up with the cost leaders don't want to take any risks.
  • Reply 12 of 27
    outsideroutsider Posts: 6,008member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by hmurchison

    I hope this isn't your drunk buddy who can't keep his/her mouth shut after a few drinks



    EFI just feels like Apple WAAAAY more than Bios does. Apple really doesn't have to worry about legacy PC stuff. They can focus strictly on newer technologies. This is why I think Intel has tried to woo people over the years. Intel wants to create cool stuff but companies trying to keep up with the cost leaders don't want to take any risks.




    So Apple will be showcasing all the new Intel stuff making the Dells and Gateways of the world look like crap peddlers.
  • Reply 13 of 27
    mr. memr. me Posts: 3,219member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Outsider

    So Apple will be showcasing all the new Intel stuff making the Dells and Gateways of the world look like crap peddlers.



    I think this is wrong on several levels. From the Apple side, I don't think that the company sees itself as Intel's bitch. From the Intel side, Dell and HP/Compaq will continue to be MUCH larger Intel customers for a long time to come. Lest we forget, Intel is a business.
  • Reply 14 of 27
    powerdocpowerdoc Posts: 8,123member
    Apple will use custom Intel designs. Apple will keep an hand on the specifications on the mobo : size of the mobo, general agencement of the componements on the mobo, choice of the options (gigabit, audio section ...).



    Apple for sure will use Intel chipsets, but will be a mobo maker.
  • Reply 15 of 27
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Mr. Me

    I think this is wrong on several levels. From the Apple side, I don't think that the company sees itself as Intel's bitch. From the Intel side, Dell and HP/Compaq will continue to be MUCH larger Intel customers for a long time to come. Lest we forget, Intel is a business.



    True, but Dell and HP are under much more price competition and therefore it's harder for them to sell new features that only appeal to a small portion of the user base. Furthermore everything has to be coordinated with Microsoft.



    Apple has the ability to take a new Intel chip and (A) produce a nice integrated, fully-working product around it, and (B) force customers to pay for it.



    Take 802.11b for example. The chips were quite inexpensive, but Apple quickly introduced across their product line, had excellent OS support, and produced a nice basestation with good management tools, The Wintel world fumbled around: only adding it to high-end laptops at first, having crappy drivers that conflicted with crappy Windows tools, and clunky basestations from other third parties. It "worked", but the Apple "experience" was so much better.
  • Reply 16 of 27
    mr. memr. me Posts: 3,219member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by IntlHarvester

    True, but Dell and HP are under much more price competition and therefore it's harder for them to sell new features that only appeal to a small portion of the user base. Furthermore everything has to be coordinated with Microsoft.



    Wrong on so many levels. From where I sit, quite the opposite is true. Entirely too many good Wintel technologies become passing fads. Apple brings stability to the market. The Mac buyer knows that new technology on his/her computer will be around awhile with a chance to uproot existing technology. This is how Apple saved USB. Without the stability brought by Apple's adoption of the technology, USB was doomed to be another passing fad.

    Quote:

    Originally posted by IntlHarvester

    Apple has the ability to take a new Intel chip and (A) produce a nice integrated, fully-working product around it, and (B) force customers to pay for it.



    Wrong again on so many levels. First, Apple can't force customers to pay for anything. Apple customers can't buy a MacOS X computer from anyone except Apple. However, Apple customers can buy a Wintel computer from darned near anybody. The surest way for Apple to create a Dell customer from an Apple customer is to try to coerce him/her. As for taking "a new Intel chip and (A) produce a nice, integrated, fully-working product around it," well Apple can do this in the abstract sense. However, Apple made it very clear that this is not what its switch to Intel is about. With Intel, Apple will receive nearly instant shipments of the volume it needs from Intel's processor catalog. Don't forget that Intel chips are more expensive than the PPC that they will replace. In-house engineering is also expensive. Intel-based Macs designed the way that you imply will be substantially more expensive than today's PowerMacs. This talk about Apple's getting special chips from Intel comes mostly from fanboy fantasies and not from anything out of Intel or Apple.

    Quote:

    Originally posted by IntlHarvester

    Take 802.11b for example. The chips were quite inexpensive, but Apple quickly introduced across their product line, had excellent OS support, and produced a nice basestation with good management tools, The Wintel world fumbled around: only adding it to high-end laptops at first, having crappy drivers that conflicted with crappy Windows tools, and clunky basestations from other third parties. It "worked", but the Apple "experience" was so much better.



    I don't know what point you are trying to make here. Lest there be any doubt, Apple's Airport used standard Lucent 802.11b PCMCIA cards. They were introduced in the iBook and spread across the product line. And yes, Apple did a beautiful job of taken a standard technology and making it practically transparent to the user. And yes, Wintel fumbled mightily. And yes, Intel pretended to have invented the technology when it introduced Centrino, even though Centrino was generation behind Apple's shipping products.
  • Reply 17 of 27
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Mr. Me

    Without the stability brought by Apple's adoption of the technology, USB was doomed to be another passing fad.



    Fanboy folklore. USB was shipping on 100% of PCs at the same time, and as Wintel users turned over their equipment they adopted USB. The only thing missing was the Forced Migration that Apple has the unique ability to foist on its market.



    Please, name one Intel technology that has been a "passing fad". They sell 70% of the world's chipsets, they can push stuff. 10 years of history shows Apple adopting every single Intel-developed "fad" that appears (USB, PCI, AGP, etc).



    Quote:

    Wrong again on so many levels. First, Apple can't force customers to pay for anything.



    Now you are contracting yourself. They forced people to pay for USB and new perpherials. They force people to pay for firewire even though it's only relevant to small portion of the userbase that uses DV cameras. However, it can be seen as a good thing because it encourages universality of these technologies.



    Quote:

    Don't forget that Intel chips are more expensive than the PPC that they will replace. In-house engineering is also expensive. Intel-based Macs designed the way that you imply will be substantially more expensive than today's PowerMacs.



    Not at all. Apple designed and manufactured the entire chipset for G5-based systems. Now, they are basically getting out of the computer-engineering business and repackaging Intel products. This will save them an enormous amount of money, as well as opening competitive bidding for their components.



    The supposed cost savings of the PowerPC never translated into any sort of price advantage to customers anyway.



    Quote:

    I don't know what point you are trying to make here. ... And yes, Apple did a beautiful job of taken a standard technology and making it practically transparent to the user. And yes, Wintel fumbled mightily



    You do know my point because you exactly restated it.
  • Reply 18 of 27
    mr. memr. me Posts: 3,219member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by IntlHarvester

    Fanboy folklore. USB was shipping on 100% of PCs at the same time, and as Wintel users turned over their equipment they adopted USB. The only thing missing was the Forced Migration that Apple has the unique ability to foist on its market.



    What you mean is that USB ports were shipping on 100% of PCs at the time. However, placing a port on the computer means nothing if there is nothing to plug into the port. With a few exceptions, Wintel buyers still used traditional or PS/2-style keyboards. Parallel printers still dominated the printer market. Even my digital camera used the RS-232 serial port. If I had a USB peripheral at the time, I could not use it because my computer which came with USB ports on the front and rear had no USB drivers. Those, I had to download from Microsoft's website. For the Windows computer on my secretary's desk, all four USB ports remain vacant because not the keyboard, not the mouse, and not the printer are connected via USB. Wintel is not Intel acting in a vacuum. It is the community of Intel, Microsoft, third-party hardware and software developers, and users. USB's use was so meager that it really didn't qualify as a fad before Apple adopted it.

    Quote:

    Originally posted by IntlHarvester

    Please, name one Intel technology that has been a "passing fad". They sell 70% of the world's chipsets, they can push stuff. 10 years of history shows Apple adopting every single Intel-developed "fad" that appears (USB, PCI, AGP, etc).



    Oh, you can do your own research. But, PCI is an excellent example of the dynamic that I am talking about. It was introduced at a time when we saw competing technologies come and go. When Apple adopted PCI for its second-generation PowerMac line, the industry was assured that PCI had come, but would stay. And stay PCI did.

    Quote:

    Originally posted by IntlHarvester

    Now you are contracting yourself. They forced people to pay for USB and new perpherials. They force people to pay for firewire even though it's only relevant to small portion of the userbase that uses DV cameras. However, it can be seen as a good thing because it encourages universality of these technologies.



    You are mistaken here on several accounts. On the first account, this is like saying that Apple forces people to buy keyboards with E-keys. Apple chooses to sell computers with a certain baseline level of functionality. Apple's baseline is higher than much of the competition. However, Apple doesn't force you to buy anything. You are free to buy Apple, Dell, HP, E-Machines, Gateway, any of hundreds of no-name boxes, or you can build your own. I see that you don't understand the uses of FireWire. In addition to DV, FireWire is used for printers, scanners, digital still cameras, file servers, etc. Just how much extra do you think I have pay for FireWire as a baseline feature of my Mac? Be reminded that items making "luxury" items standard can dramatically reduce their price. In the automobile market, automatic transmissions and air conditioners were once considered luxuries. Today, you will likely pay more for a car without these items than you pay for the same model with them.

    Quote:

    Originally posted by IntlHarvester

    Not at all. Apple designed and manufactured the entire chipset for G5-based systems. Now, they are basically getting out of the computer-engineering business and repackaging Intel products. This will save them an enormous amount of money, as well as opening competitive bidding for their components.



    Apple does not manufacture the G5 processor. It buys the processors from IBM. You make a rather bizarre assumption that Apple does not currently bid out its components. This is just not true. Everything else you say is speculation. Neither you now I have any idea how much Apple engineering versus repackaging will go into Apple's Intel-based products.

    Quote:

    Originally posted by IntlHarvester

    The supposed cost savings of the PowerPC never translated into any sort of price advantage to customers anyway.



    Oh, but it did and does. Have you ever done a price comparison between Macintoshes and high-end PCs like AlienWare? AlienWare and its like don't do nearly the engineering that Apple does. However, their prices are comparable to or higher than Apple's.
  • Reply 19 of 27
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Mr. Me

    However, placing a port on the computer means nothing if there is nothing to plug into the port.



    Anything you could plug into an iMac, you could also plug into a PC running Win98 (which shipped 1 month before the iMac).



    Quote:

    When Apple adopted PCI for its second-generation PowerMac line, the industry was assured that PCI had come



    PCI was already universal by the time Apple adopted it. It takes a particular Mac-perversion to look at a situation where Apple was on the trailing edge and come away believing that they are leading the way.



    Getting back to the original point, even PowerMacs are almost entirely built around Intel technology, so Apple has been Intel's "bitch" for a while. A closer working relationship between the two will benefit both parties.



    Quote:

    Apple does not manufacture the G5 processor.



    And you don't know the difference between a CPU and a chipset (which Apple does manufacture).



    Quote:

    Have you ever done a price comparison between Macintoshes and high-end PCs like AlienWare?



    Yes, and I've done price comparisons with cheaper systems. Did you forget what your point was? You are just being argumentative.
  • Reply 20 of 27
    cwestphacwestpha Posts: 48member
    I hate to burt all of your people's bubbles but... EFI for consumer implementations is called BIOS 2.0

    Good old BIOS in its current implementation is fundementaly unchanged since its first implementations. That mean in a PCI-express machine you have ISA initilization code in a pci express only mainboard. It also requires assembly knoladge for programing.

    EFI is not hard to implement. Its a simple chip replacement, slightly larger EPROM, results in faster boot times (no more ISA and other compatability code), and is EASIER to program since you can code moduals in "C" or any number of other languages.
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