There's no technical obstacle to running native Windows 10 on Apple's M1 Macs, but it's totally up to Microsoft to license Windows 10 on Arm, says Apple's software engineering chief Craig Federighi.
Federighi made the point in an interview with Ars Techica addressing the question of having Windows running on M1 Macs in the way it can on Apple's Intel-based Macs via Boot Camp. The key obstacle is that Microsoft only licenses Windows 10 on Arm to Windows 10 OEMs.
The Arm Macs support Parallels Desktop, so users can run Linux and Windows apps in a virtual machine. And at WWDC 2020, Apple demonstrated a Linux distribution running on a Mac with an Arm chip.
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But Windows running natively on an M1 machine is "really up to Microsoft," Federighi said in the interview.
"We have the core technologies for them to do that, to run their ARM version of Windows, which in turn of course supports x86 user mode applications. But that's a decision Microsoft has to make, to bring to license that technology for users to run on these Macs. But the Macs are certainly very capable of it," he added.
Federighi said that Windows in the cloud might be another option and pointed to CrossOver, which is capable of "running both 32- and 64-bit x86 Windows binaries under a sort of WINE-like emulation layer on these systems."
Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux kernel, is also keen on getting an M1 based Mac — but in his case only if it could run a Linux-based operating system.
"I'd absolutely love to have one, if it just ran Linux," he wrote in response to questions on Real World Technologies forums.
"I have fairly fond memories of the 11" Macbook Air (I think 4,1) that I used about a decade ago (but moved away from because it took Apple too long to fix the screen – and by the time they did, I'd moved on to better laptops, and Apple had moved on to make Linux less convenient)."
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"Apple may run Linux in their cloud, but their laptops don't ;(" Torvalds continued.
"I've been waiting for an ARM laptop that can run Linux for a long time. The new Air would be almost perfect, except for the OS. And I don't have the time to tinker with it, or the inclination to fight companies that don't want to help."