Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Idea of Running Wine on Ubuntu For Windows Compatibility

Wine is software that acts as a compatibility layer to allow applications designed to run on the Windows platform to run on Linux platforms. An interesting entry has brought up several questions about the need to run Windows applications on Linux desktops. It is indeed a very involved question which has the potential to go unanswered indefinitely. Chances are, if you are running a Linux desktop in the first place, you didn't have a need for Windows applications. But what about when you do need them? It would be nice if all open source alternative did it all, but that simply isn't the reality of today.

Mark Shuttleworth, founder of the Ubuntu Linux distribution was asked how important the role of Wine and Windows + Linux compatibility in general, will be in the success of Ubuntu. The reply was straightforward, it is, and it isn't.

Wine is hugely innovative software that has no doubt contributed to the success of not only Ubuntu, but open source software in general. Not by allowing users to simply just run Windows applications on Ubuntu. If that were the reason, there would obviously be no point in running an open source operating system. Wine is a gateway application. By allowing people to use Windows applications on open source systems, there is no avoiding the exposure to lots of interesting stops along the way. But what about the native Linux user? Does Wine have any useful purpose for these users? Maybe not all of them but there will no doubt come a time where the open source alternative simply doesn't exist. In times such as these, Wine negates the need to install Windows natively or, even virtually for that matter.

When considering questions such as these, there is always lots of ego involved from both the open and proprietary sides of the table. Both sides have a cause and once joined, people tend to stick to them. On the open source side, the direction of any given project isn't dictated so much as collaborated. There really is no rank among contributing project members aside from what they are able to produce. This is what really counts, and this was made very apparent by Shuttleworth's response. I for one applaud it.