The Macintosh or Mac, is a series of personal computers (PCs) designed, developed, and marketed by Apple Inc.
Apple directly sub-contracts hardware production to Asian original equipment manufacturers such as Asus, maintaining a high degree of control over the end product. By contrast, most other companies (including Microsoft) create software that can be run on hardware produced by a variety of third parties such as Dell, HP/Compaq, and Lenovo. Consequently, the Macintosh buyer has comparably fewer options, but superior integration on those options.
The current Mac product family uses Intel x86-64 processors. Apple introduced an emulator during the transition from PowerPC chips (called Rosetta), much as it did during the transition from Motorola 68000 architecture a decade earlier. The Macintosh is the only mainstream computer platform to have successfully transitioned to a new CPU architecture, and has done so twice. All current Mac models ship with at least 8 GB of RAM as standard other than the 1.4 GHz Mac Mini, MacBook Pro (without Retina Display), and MacBook Air. Current Mac computers use ATI Radeon or nVidia GeForce graphics cards as well as Intel graphics built into the main CPU. All current Macs (except for the MacBook Pro without Retina Display) do not ship with an optical media drive that includes a dual-function DVD/CD burner. Apple refers to this as a SuperDrive. Current Macs include two standard data transfer ports: USB and Thunderbolt (except for the MacBook (2015 version), which only has a USB-C port and headphone port). MacBook Pro, iMac, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini computers now also feature the “Thunderbolt” port, which Apple says can transfer data at speeds up to 10 gigabits per second. USB was introduced in the 1998 iMac G3 and is ubiquitous today, while FireWire is mainly reserved for high-performance devices such as hard drives or video cameras. Starting with the then-new iMac G5, released in October 2005, Apple started to include built-in iSight cameras on appropriate models, and a media center interface called Front Row that can be operated by an Apple Remote or keyboard for accessing media stored on the computer. Front Row has been discontinued as of 2011, however, and the Apple Remote is no longer bundled with new Macs.
The hardware architecture was so closely tied to the Mac OS operating system that it was impossible to boot an alternative operating system. The most common workaround, is to boot into Mac OS and then to hand over control to a Mac OS-based bootloader application. Used even by Apple for A/UX and MkLinux, this technique is no longer necessary since the introduction of Open Firmware-based PCI Macs, though it was formerly used for convenience on many Old World ROM systems due to bugs in the firmware implementation. Now, Mac hardware boots directly from Open Firmware in most PowerPC-based Macs or EFI in all Intel-based Macs.
Following the release of Intel-based Macs, third-party platform virtualization software such as Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion, and VirtualBox began to emerge. These programs allow users to run Microsoft Windows or previously Windows-only software on Macs at near native speed. Apple also released Boot Camp and Mac-specific Windows drivers that help users to install Windows XP or Vista and natively dual boot between Mac OS X and Windows. Though not condoned by Apple, it is possible to run the Linux operating system using Boot camp or other virtualization workarounds.
Because Mac OS X is a UNIX operating system, borrowing heavily from FreeBSD, many applications written for Linux or BSD run on Mac OS X, often using X11. Many popular commercial software applications from large developers, such as Microsoft’s Office and Adobe’s Photoshop are ported to both Mac OS and Windows. A large amount of open-source software applications, like the Firefox web browser and the Libreoffice office suite, are cross-platform, and thereby also run natively on Mac OS.