Apple’s Rosetta 2 Won’t Support x86 Virtualization Apps Or Kernel Extensions Running Windows

Apple announced the long awaited transition away from Intel chips to its own custom silicon earlier this week, and we’re still learning more about what that actually means for developers and users alike.

Apple confirmed that Rosetta is making a comeback from the Power PC-to-Intel transition, this time handling x86 apps that need to run on Apple silicon. But there are a couple of caveats worth noting.

First, it seems that Apple’s Rosetta won’t be able to emulate x86 in terms of apps that offer virtualization. That means apps that run virtual Windows machines inside them, like VMWare or Parallels, won’t work unless their developers rework them to be used on Apple silicon.

The same goes for Kernel extensions, with developers needing to give them some love if they want them to continue to work on new Macs that ship without Intel’s x86 chips inside.

Rosetta can translate most Intel-based apps, including apps that contain just-in-time (JIT) compilers. However, Rosetta doesn’t translate the following executables:

– Kernel extensions
– Virtual Machine apps that virtualize x86_64 computer platforms

Developers don’t have too long to get these particular ducks in a row, either. Apple says that it intends to have Macs running its own silicon in stores before the end of this year. We don’t know what those Macs will be, though. It’s possible that they won’t be machines likely to be impacted by the virtualization problem – they won’t be powerhouses normally used for such things – but the lack of Kernel extensions could be an issue.

We also don’t yet know whether Bootcamp will be around for those machines running Apple silicon. Bootcamp currently allows users to install Windows beside macOS on their Macs, but without x86 support Windows won’t run.

We’ll add that to the list of questions surrounding what will otherwise be a grant transition for Apple and its users.

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