Linux Desktop: Seven Leading Applications: Page 2

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2. CodeWeavers’ CrossOver Linux

What it does: Provides a middleware layer between Linux and Windows applications.

How it will help you: Not ready to commit completely to Linux? Not sure you like the idea of upgrading to Vista either? Concerned about continuing support of your legacy Windows applications? Sick of dealing with Patch Tuesdays?

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CrossOver Linux could be just what you’re looking for. One reason many balk at switching to Linux is that they fear losing their favorite applications. After all, part of why Microsoft has such a stranglehold on enterprise OS deployments is the nearly ubiquitous use of applications like Outlook and PowerPoint. Even as replacements to these apps emerge, people then start worrying about their niche or industry-specific applications, which often have no Linux or Mac counterparts.

CodeWeavers’ CrossOver Linux corrects this problem. Based on the open-source Wine Project, CrossOver Linux provides an API that allows Windows applications to integrate with GNOME and KDE, and enables those applications to run in a Linux environment as if they were doing so natively.

You can now run Word, Excel, Outlook, Photoshop, FrameMaker, Quicken, and many other applications on a Linux distribution. CrossOver Linux also supports many Explorer browser plugins, such as QuickTime and Shockwave, enabling them to operate directly on whichever Linux browser you choose.

CrossOver Linux also provides what the company calls “Bottles.” These create virtual Windows environments, each with a discrete compatibility layer that isolates each application. The point here is to improve stability, while also avoiding potential interoperability issues.

The net benefit is that you can ditch Microsoft OSes and their attendant problems, while retaining the applications. An additional benefit is that you’re less at risk when it comes to viruses and malware, since the underlying OS is no longer Windows.

For enterprise installations, CodeWeavers provides a CrossOver Server version, which enables server-based versions of things like Microsoft Office and Lotus Notes.

Obstacles to adoption: CrossOver Linux isn’t the only middleware provider out there. Win4Lin, for instance, offers similar functionality. An advantage CrossOver Linux has, however, is that it doesn’t require Windows licenses. Win4Lin acts more as a virtualization tool, allowing the Windows OS to run as a guest over Linux, with the applications supported by the Windows OS. CrossOver Linux, on the other hand, relies on an API that allows the applications themselves to run as if natively.

CodeWeavers also earns street cred by being the principal corporate backer of the Wine Project, an open-source initiative that is re-implementing the Win32 API under UNIX. Wine makes it possible for Unix-based OSes (like OS X and Linux) to run Windows applications. While users could conceivably opt for Wine instead of CrossOver Linux, Wine requires a lot of technical know-how that CrossOver Linux automates for the end user.

Finally, CodeWeavers has started to support Windows-based games, and it has long supported various media players. This isn’t a big requirement in the enterprise, per se, but with the work-home divide getting fuzzier all the time, CodeWeavers’ ability to support games and things like iTunes is certainly a plus.

Developer: CodeWeavers, in Saint Paul, MN

Management Team: Jeremy White, founder and CEO, previously was the founder and CTO of Holten, White and Associates, a Minneapolis-based computer consulting firm. Alexandre Julliard, CTO, was one of the first developers of Wine when it started in 1993. In 1994, he assumed the responsibility for maintaining the Wine project, and has led the project ever since. Jon Parshall, COO, has a background in business and systems consulting.

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