Apple has, despite fears that this could happen, not locked the hardware in the new Macs with M1 processors so that they can only boot Mac OS. It is cumbersome, but it is possible to start other operating systems. The only problem is that the M1 Macs’ hardware is brand new and requires new or redesigned drivers.
Some users have been hoping that Microsoft will release Windows for the M1 Macs, as Windows is already in a version for ARM processors, but Microsoft has said it has no such plans. Instead, it looks like Linux will be the first and perhaps only alternative to Mac OS.
The Asahi Linux project has been running since last winter and has come a long way in less than a year. After porting the Linux kernel to the M1 and fixing other absolutely necessary things in the spring, the developers have worked further and has now worked pci express and usb-pd. Drivers for several other important components are in working order and are expected to be included upstream of the Linux kernel soon.
Perhaps most exciting is Alyssa Rosenzweig’s ongoing development of drivers for Apple graphics chips. She has already got basic functionality up and running so that Asahi Linux can load the Gnome graphical interface with 4k resolution, and has used the computer in that way for simple everyday chores such as tweeting. 3d acceleration does not work yet, but the M1 is so fast that it still does not feel sluggish.
The developers hope to get rid of kernel modifications and necessary drivers soon, and can then start distributing trial versions with installers to the public. It will still be a long time before Linux on the M1 can use all the hardware in the new Macs, but with only a handful of developers, the project has come a long way in a few months.