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Docker, a popular multi-platform application used by software developers, has released a version that runs natively on Apple Silicon hardware, including Macs released with Apple’s custom-designed M1 chip.
The M1 chip uses the ARM instruction set and cannot natively run software that was designed to run on the x86 architecture that the Intel processors in previously released Macs used. Though the previous version of Docker did work via Apple’s Rosetta solution, the introduction of an M1-native version of Docker contributes to a closing gap for developers concerned about running their entire suite of tools in an optimal way.
It follows the release of M1 versions of Homebrew, Visual Studio Code, and other developer tools and applications. But some gaps remain—for example, Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2019 IDE (which is distinct from the comparatively lightweight Visual Studio Code) has not been updated.
Docker achieved popularity among developers because it enabled relatively easy use of containers, wherein multiple applications could be developed and tested on a single machine, sharing the operating system’s kernel without interfering with one another.
The public release of the Apple Silicon version of Docker Desktop for Mac was installed 45,000 times in a technical preview, and Docker’s press release says that developers participating in that preview said the application ran “faster and quieter” than it did before the M1 update. The press release included the following statement from Docker Captain Ajeet Singh Raina:
To the many developers eager to know if they can use the latest Macs as a dev machine with Docker, the wait is over… Docker Desktop for Mac [Apple Silicon] will let you do everything you’ve been able to do on a Mac already, and you’ll be able to do it faster and with less noise.
A blog post on the Docker website says that M1 support “quickly became by far our most upvoted roadmap item ever” after it was first requested.
That said, Apple has only released a few Macs that include the M1, and all of them are lower-end machines with limitations like low maximum RAM configurations, support for only one external monitor at a time, and fewer Thunderbolt ports than high-end machines that still have Intel chips—meaning most of the Apple Silicon Macs that would be most suitable for developers have yet to be released.
When they are, they might not have the M1 but may instead feature related chips with performance or feature improvements over the M1. There’s no reason to expect that the changes made to Docker and other M1-native software won’t work just as well on that new chip, should it arrive.
The full release notes for Docker Desktop 3.3.1 with Apple Silicon support can be found at the Docker Docs website.