Are the new iPod nano and Apple TV running iOS?

Apple introduced a new iPod nano this week with a multitouch screen, and a new Apple TV with an A4 chipset, but didn't make clear if either or both were running iOS. Unlike iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, where they shout iOS from the rooftops, they've historically kept mum about iPod and Apple TV OS.

iPod nano looks like it's running iOS. It has an iOS-like user interface with a subset of iOS-like built-in apps controlled by iOS-like gestures. There's inertial scrolling with elasticity. You can even put icons into jiggly mode and rearrange them. In fact, when demonstrating that during his keynote, Steve Jobs said (emphasis mine):

Say I that on the home page, I can just push down, jiggle it, and move it, just like I can with my other iOS devices

Not official confirmation to be sure, but think about it this way: given their focus on iOS of late, would Apple spend the effort to re-create that interface on the old iPod OS just for iPod nano, or to spend it getting iOS running on iPod nano hardware?

Apple TV on the other hand looks nothing like iOS. However, it's running on an Apple A4 chipset which has, thus far, only been used for iOS devices. Again, given Apple's focus on iOS, would they spend the effort porting OS X to Apple A4 just for Apple TV, or recreate the Apple TV UI for iOS?

I didn't hear Jobs mention anything about iOS during the show but Daring Fireball's John Gruber claims it's definitely iOS.

I'd love to know for sure, but for now my guess is Apple sees iOS as their future and any effort they put in to new mobile or media devices is going to be put into iOS, including iPod nano and Apple TV.

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Are the new iPod nano and Apple TV running iOS?


Apple TV would surely be iOS, not sure if it would run on the nano tho! Probably not screaming it from the rooftops yet - because then people will demand apps!!!!

I'm sure I've read elsewhere that it's been confirmed that the Nano isn't running iOS, I can't remember where now, damn twitter. I'll try and find it.

i think none of them are running iOS. the nano have some of the loks from iOS, but its just af new interface for the "iPod OS"

Apple tv looks to be running iPod software. Look at it's remote. The iPod software is capable of running video. Just one more thing the IOS base is iPod software

Gruber also says an Apple rep has said the nano is NOT running iOS. The nano doesn't need something as powerful as iOS, which has so many more features than just audio playback it's not even funny. No way the nano will get apps, either.

Quoted from wikipedia -;
"iOS is derived from Mac OS X, with which it shares the Darwin foundation, and is therefore a Unix-like operating system by nature.
In iOS, there are four abstraction layers: the Core OS layer, the Core Services layer, the Media layer, and the Cocoa Touch layer. The operating system uses roughly 500 megabytes of the device's storage, varying for each model.[1]"
If you have used ATVflash on the AppleTV - you will know that it uses a 10.4 image. When you talk about iOS are you mistakenly referring to devices using the Cocoa Touch layer?
Surely just because there is mention of an A4 chip, it does not automatically mean iOS.

@Neil, the OLD Apple TV ran a special version of OS X Tiger. That doesn't mean the new one does (it might, but it doesn't have to).

Its too bad the nano isn't running ios if that's true. Regardless of the limitations, it would be surefire that devs would produce apps form the nano if given the chance.

I'm betting they are running iOS. It seems Apple has made a major commitment of R&D resources into developing iOS. I just can't see them not exploiting that. The iOS framework is flexible enough to adapt to specialized hardware like the Apple TV and the Nano.

Would have been nice if it had an inch wider screen and wifi, then it could have had an app store. I'm not willing to pay more than 99 bucks for one of those they way it is. I can't believe they took the video playback away, the camera I could have let go but not video playback too.

Rene Ritchie:
I think the point of Neil's comment regarding the Apple TV is this:
iOS is, at its core, a customized version of OS X, using a different presentation layer (Cocoa Touch) for its GUI. Any device that is running iOS effectively already is running OS X.
So, referring back to the original author's question: "...would they spend the effort porting OS X to Apple A4 just for Apple TV...?" I think the answer is clear: OS X already has been ported to run on the Apple A4 -- in the form of iOS.

iOS and MacOS X are not exactly the same thing, although they're obviously very close and iOS started as a fork of MacOS X. I'd even bet that MacOS X 10.7 is going to borrow a lot of work and fixes from iOS 4.x.
The biggest difference is that iOS is intended to run on a low-memory machine with no fast, infinitely-rewritable secondary store. Thus, no swap files. It's so far been single-user. It's locked down with a lot of code signing and sandboxing. It's unclear what primary file system it uses, but it's probably not HFS+. Even without UIKit there are significant differences.
Given the purpose of the device and its hardware specs, I would be amazed if the AppleTV's OS wasn't iOS with a custom app. On the same token, though, I would think porting the "look and feel" from iOS's app launcher would be WAY easier than the entire iOS kernel on the Nano, so I'd bet the nano is running some custom tiny OS with the iOS's UI grafted on.

Apple may not call the OSs in the new Nano and ATV iOS - nor should they, since it would cause confusion - but if both devices have the A4 chipset, I'm sure that the basic OS components are shared to the extent that they are variants of iOS. It's probably akin to different distros of the same version of Linux. Certain core OS components are in all of them, which include basic instructions between the A4 chipset, the screen and touch interface, video/audio playback, CPU throttling, etc. An OS mediates between the instructions associated with the chipset and the functions built on top. There's no reason to build a "different OS" from the ground up when using the same chipset to provide the same basic functions. The UI is the one thing that probably changed the most - it has the same look and feel as the iOS devices, but the screen dimensions are different, the Nano lacks pinch to zoom, and the ATV lacks a touch interface, etc. These are almost certainly iOS devices that run only native apps. If, however, the Nano did not have the A4 chipset, then it probably would need a different OS, to a large extent.

As an iOS developer. AppleTV is 100% NOT iOS. The iPod Nano is probably using a subset of the iOS Apis so it sort of using iOS but not open for third party apps.

Do you guys remember Steve Jobs saying .. "NOBODY WANTS A BOX .. We learned that the hard way with APPLE TV"
so what does he do? He returns with a box.. . Knowing Steve Jobs.. he probably thought the iTV was not ready with the IOS interface just yet... so he 's gonna hold off until next year.. for the iTV with IOS ...

My bet is AppleTV is running iOS and will get an update (hopefully before holidays for my stock)' that will open it up to the "app store". For those saying no way, touch interface won't work...Airplay to play games using iPhone/touch OR Magic Trackpad (perfect wireless remote...)

I thought ATV might get an iOS update to allow 3rd party apps, but the more I think about it, the more I don't think Apple will do that. They want to promote their video streaming services for a while rather than open up the platform. I also think the possibilities for 3rd party apps on ATV are drastically overstated by Kevin Rose, for instance. Apple can probably do something with AirPlay that allows more integration with existing iOS apps on their portable devices that wouldn't require opening up ATV.

I just wonder when the nano will offer a 32gb and the iPhone needs a 64gb. There were no size upgrades this year which would've been the natural upgrade process. Guess we can hope for next year.

Sorry but Apple should concentrate more on fixing its broken products then to introduce new ones. Hey, you can't blame them for trying to cover up a solution for the iPhone
Plus has anyone heard about why Apple would not allow its products to be tested by O2? It was a simple questionnaire that they had to fill out. You can check it out here:

How suprised people would be, when the appletv released indeed with iOS and bundled with magic pad that enable people play iOS games over the Television...?

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