If you loathe Apple's MacOS but envy the M1's performance and power efficiency, the door has just been opened for a sunnier future on your side of the OS wars. Alyssa Rosenzweig, a Linux developer leading the Panfrost and Asahi graphics drivers, has tweeted a running Debian GNU/Linux installation running bare metal on Apple's shining star SoC.
This isn't the first time that we have seen Linux on the M1 but make no mistake that this takes nothing away from Rosenzweig's work. Rosenzweig's development follows months of work in reverse engineering the M1 SoC's workings, and represents one of the most complicated tasks in the software world - porting a working OS to what amounts to a hardware blackbox. While we're still a relatively long time before a set-it-and-forget-it installation process for Linux on M1, the work done by Alyssa and co opens up the frontier for that to happen. The current installation already features a working upstream mainline kernel with USB support, adding flexibility to further developments. The objective is to enable any Linux distro to be installed on and run through the M1 SoC, with ecosystem support and mainline kernel updates.
The M1's performance on MacOS is a known quantity - and it beats even some desktop Windows PCs that should punch above the M1's weight. However, is the same true for Linux? Will the M1 Linux implementation eventually offer higher performance (and performance per watt) than comparable x86 implementations? We'll have to wait and see, but if you love the M1's performance and energy efficiency but don't want to be locked into Apple's ecosystem, this is one development you should keep your eyes on.