iEmu Aims To Bring iOS Apps To Android, Windows, and Linux

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Ready for this week’s almost-too-ambitious Kickstarter project?

Meet iEmu, a new project from one of the iPhone’s earliest hackers. The goal? To get iOS up and running in an emulated state on Linux, Windows, Mac, and Android.

By building on top of the open-source QEMU emulator, project leader Chris Wade (who had a role in some of the earliest iPhone jailbreak exploits) is hoping to fully emulate the Samsung S5L8930 (A4) chipset used in the iPhone 4 and first generation iPad.

That should all be easy enough, right? I mean, your computer can play SNES games and arcade games! This should be a breeze!

Yeah, no. Even once they’ve figured out how to emulate the CPU (which, according to this page, they’ve done), they still need to hack together emulated support for the GPU, USB controller, Multitouch controller, the memory, the audio system, and all of the secondary components (the Bluetooth chip, GPS, compass, etc.) And once they’ve got all the hardware stuff covered? Then they get to figure out how to force all this stuff to boot. As much as I’d love to see this all happen, to call it a massive project would be an understatement.

“But wait!” you say. “Doesn’t Apple already provide their own iOS emulator?”

Sort of — but with some rather large footnotes. First and foremost, Apple’s solution is Mac only. Second, and not quite as easy to explain in a few words: Apple’s iOS testing system is a simulation, not an emulation. While it looks like iOS and acts like iOS, Apple’s simulator isn’t actually running a virtualized version of iOS. It’s a trivial difference for 99.9% of the world (and even the very vast majority of iOS developers) — but for a tiny chunk of people (security engineers digging for system flaws, for example), the difference is massive.

Now, for the ever-important question: Why? Because they (hope they) can. Beyond that, the goals are to get “most iPad/iPhone apps” up and running on non-iOS devices, allow for true iOS emulation on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS devices (Why iOS devices? Think virtual machines), and allow security engineers to properly explore iOS malware without potentially wrecking their actual devices. Plus, all the reverse engineering involved theoretically leads to documentation on all sorts of aspects of the iPhone that no one outside of Apple really understands.

Chris is trying to raise $20k for the project, which he says should cover his living expenses for 3+ months, as well as covering hosting costs and the production/shipping of Kickstarter rewards. If you’re down to throw a few greenbacks into the mission, you can find the Kickstarter project here, but know this: these guys have one hell of a mountain to climb. If they do manage to get things up and booting in a reasonable timeframe, don’t expect your Android device to be chewin’ through tons of iOS-native apps and games any time soon — there’s still the matter of hardware emulation being crazy computationally expensive to deal with.

And that’s not to mention what Apple Legal might think of all of this…