Recently I wrote about the new Raspberry Pi 400 and how it could be used for remote learning on a budget. During my testing so far, I have found that mainstream support for the apps most would use day to day is currently not where it should be. Today I ask, does the move to Apple Silicon make a sweeter development ecosystem for the Raspberry Pi?
During my efforts to find a cheap solution to the remote learning boom, I have spent a lot of time looking at various Raspberry Pi options. The hardware is great, and I don’t see many issues there, the 400 form factor reinforced that opinion. The platform is easy to use and cost effective.
What I have found though is that the software isn’t quite as simple. For an IT professional like myself or tinkerer/maker types the added complexity is probably part of the appeal and fun. For a mainstream user, many of the hoops you must jump through are blockers to adoption.
There is a large ecosystem of users and developers out there and I have found many solutions to most of the problems I have encountered. They all just took a bit more effort than you would like to give to a novice. The biggest problem I encountered was not having a native Zoom client built for ARM.
Earlier this year Apple announced that they were going to transition the Mac range to their own Apple Silicon. To start with I was sceptical, the work involved for developers porting the main applications that are used within the existing ecosystem seemed like a monumental ask. As time has moved on, so has my opinion.
Just a few weeks ago, Apple launched the new M1 Mac range and I’ve been blown away. The performance is competitive, and the feature set is what you would expect from any Apple device. The pricing of the Mac Mini M1 particularly caught my eye, very reasonable.
What really got me thinking though, was just how many big-name brands are getting their act together and launching Universal Apps. Containing both x86 and ARM64 packages to support both versions of Big Sur. Finally, there is hope that a compatible Zoom client might appear for ARM in the not too distant future!
I am not an application developer, so I may be over simplifying. In my mind once we have packages that are compiled and tested on the ARM architecture, there is less work involved in making that available to other flavours of ARM device. Granted there will be differences in Operating Systems and package delivery. But this isn’t as big a gap as a completely different instruction set.
Apple have historically been good at forcing changes through when they want to. This is playing out to be another example of generating enough demand to force momentum across the entire ecosystem.
So, what am I hoping for? Short term, like I mentioned, a working native Zoom client would be a great addition to my own projects. The performance on the existing workarounds has been less than what I would consider useable.
Longer term we could see an explosion of applications making their way over to the Raspberry Pi. Microsoft Office apps and content creation tools that are popular already in the Apple space are all actively being worked on for Big Sur on M1. Getting those available in future on the Pi would be a significant improvement.
I don’t hold out too much hope on this last one, but maybe even one day we might see a Hackintosh Raspberry Pi. What do you think and what apps would you like to see on Raspberry Pi? Let me know over on Twitter or jump into Discord and start a conversation on the topic.
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