WINE - An open source project which could be the tipping point for wide scale adoption of Linux by the masses

May 30, 2006
A few days back, Google did something which took everyone by surprise. It released Picasa - a very popular and advanced image archiving tool that also includes a lot of photo manipulation features - for Linux, which till now only worked in Windows . But what was cleverly shielded from the average user was that Picasa released for Linux is the very same Picasa for windows but running on top of Wine - an Open Source implementation of the Windows API on top of X and Unix. In fact any body who uses Picasa will not be aware that he/she is running a windows software in Linux unless it is pointed out.

Wine has been around for a long time now and there are even companies which operate for profit such as Codeweavers who sell a fine tuned version of wine to allow people to run Windows software on Linux. But what amazed me when trying out Picasa was the degree of integration of the software with the native OS. For the first time, a company has proved that it is possible to successfully package the windows software to work efficiently in Linux with minimal or no configuration needed at the user's end. Of course, Google has worked closely with the Wine developers to make this a reality. And a lot of code written by Google developers - 200 patches to be exact - have been contributed back to the Wine community.

Now here is the interesting fact. There are countless Windows software out there which is used on a daily basis by different sets of people but which does not command as much popularity as to get the free software community sufficiently excited to start working on a similar project. I myself was really fond of a free software called KeyNote which I was using on a regular basis on Windows. And I was a bit disappointed when I couldn't find a similar software in Linux. Wine project will give incentive to such people who are tied down to using their proprietary/free Windows only software to switch to Linux.

So the question is how is what Google has done different from say, what Codeweavers has been doing for so long? Well, Google has integrated wine with one particular software to make it seamlessly work in Linux where as Codeweavers is essentially a fine-tuned version of Wine which can be installed on Linux and it is up to the user to install and configure the necessary Windows software on top of it.

The need of the hour is for more and more companies to take a leaf out of Google's book and integrate Wine libraries with their Windows only software to make it work seamlessly in Linux. So tomorrow for example, if an Adobe releases a version of Wine lib integrated Photoshop for Linux platform the same way that Google has done for Picasa, then we would see more people embracing Linux. And as more and more companies come forward and ship their products with a self contained version of Wine to make them seamlessly run in Linux, then I would say it will snap the last thread which is holding back a large section of the users from ditching their proprietary OS for Linux. And Linux would achieve mass appeal.

At this stage some might have questions as to how it will affect the GNU movement. If something like this happens, then there will be both positive as well as negative effects for GNU community. The positive one being that a major section of the people would be exposed to GPL-ed software, start liking it and even cultivate a taste for the GNU philosophy. And the negative one being the free software community will still not be able to ween away people from using the proprietary software to which they are tied to.

And finally, will wide scale adoption of Linux bode the death of Microsoft ? Not really. Nobody can wish away a multi-billion dollar company. Microsoft will evolve itself like all great businesses do and move on to greener pastures. And along the way (hopefully) discard their unfair business practices and stop trying to monopolize the market.

12 comments:

  • Iain

    There is a Linux version of Treepad:

    http://www.treepad.com/linux/treepadlite/

  • iain,
    Treepad is a really useful software. But their free version (the one you pointed out) does not have all the features that are there in keynote. For additional features you have to buy their full version.

  • KeyNote works with Windows 95, 98, ME, NT4, 2000 and XP.
    Required component: Microsoft standard richedit control, version at least 2.0 ("riched20.dll")

    I'll almost garauntee that wine has a version of this driver. That or you could check out ReactOS. They have some really good stuff starting, and even though it isn't totally complient with all software yet, it does a dang good job.

  • Actually, you will find that it was Codewaevers who did the porting for Google, not Google themselves. Google had no choice but to contribute the code patches back, them's the rules. Finally, compiling Picasa against winelib so it runs as a standalone program without a standard wine install is old hat (after all Wine Is Not an Emulator, it's a reimplementation of the WIN32 API), but only something you can do if you have the apps source code in the first place, thus why you need a wine install to run MS Office.

    John.

  • I agree and disagree with your comments about Wine. Yes, it would be great if big software companies would fold their products into Wine for Linux consumption. OTOH, it would be even greater if more effort went into Wine (especially documentation and howtos) so that lesser known Windows applications could be used on Linux. Companies like Crossover Office have made a yeoman's effort to enable big - megabucks - packages such as PhotoShop and M$ Office, but even CO does not enable lesser known (but critical to many users) packages like PhotoDeluxe or Hallmark Card Shop (or fill in your own favorites).

    If I could just get those two packages running, I could get my wife's computer off of Windows completely, since there are native Linux packages for Email, Browser, and Office. Sigh, how great it would be to kiss the spyware and biennial virus meltdown goodby forever.

    Best of Luck,
    Collins

  • I don't think wine is the right way to do this. Programs developed for the linux-platform will allways be a better choice. I think we should wait for Novell and Red Hat getting so much companies running linux that we get native linux-apps instead of using wine for windows programs. Yes it maybe takes a little longer, but I think that is worth waiting for...

    Johan Clasen

  • Now, it's making me REALLY ANGRY when I read someone saying "Linux [...] still looks like Windows 98.". No offence meant, but goddamit, do some googling before you post. Here: http://www.freedesktop.org/~davidr/xgl-demo1.xvid.avi
    I'm running it, it's light, stable and ten times better looking than window$ and OS X together.

  • This guy 'viperteq' is a troll. He/she cut&pasted comments about LINUX on desktop from 1999/2000/2001. He did not check latest mandriva/ubuntu/fedora/suse distributions.

    It is not worth spending any time answering to his arguments.

    I am using Linux as my primary DESKTOP exclusively from 1997... yes... back in 97 desktop was a little bit rough on edges... so it was win95... or later 96/ME..

    But, at least, my system never crashed and it was virus free. hmmmm... what did you say about stability of 95/98/me/NT... ??

  • Susan

    I run an AMD64 system, and find WINE to be a little frustrating because of the lack of a 64 bit distro. I did get WINE running on my system using the instructions on
    http://porg.es/blog/wine-on-ubuntu-with-amd64
    but so far nothing.
    susancragin@earthlink.net

  • Joat

    Another similar app is Treeline it's GPL written in python. There is also a windows binary available.
    Treeline

  • Since Adobe was mentioned, I have beside me right here an old copy of Photoshop for the Irix, for S. Graphics workstations that is. Yes, Photoshop was a Unix product too. It's a Mac OS product too. What i mean to say is that Wine is a solution for us end-users that have to deal with these companies' strategy to stop compiling their programs for operating systems that they no longer deem profitable. When time comes Adobe won't use tools like Wine !!! They will just release linux binaries that they keep int their drawers. The code is there, actually these programs are originally made for unix-like operating systems.

  • Ananth

    Wine may not be a tipping point. Consider my scenario.

    I'm a music composer and an avid linux enthusiast. I have Ubuntu (feisty) and Windows. The only reason I still have windows is, there are some work related softwares which I can't live without.

    I don't hesitate to try new things, and now I can comfortably do almost all 'other' works in linux, like browsing, making a document, watching movies, listening to music. Still I'm not very happy with making music in linux, though there are some solid ground works like Jack.

    Because of unavailability of my work softwares in linux, I find myself booted in windows most often, even when I'm not making music but browsing etc.

    Like picasa, If I can get a couple of my softwares work seamlessly in Linux under wine, I have no reason to come back to linux.

    ~~~~

    Keynote is an excellent software. But it's not developed/supported anymore. In linux, I wont break my neck to get keynote working, but I'd find other alternatives like zim, tomboy.

    That's my second point. Software options are plenty in linux. With tools like Synaptic and community forums, one can find the best tool for their need. There's no need to resolve to wined-windows software unless there's no other choice. Most linux users (new and old) know that.