Windows 10 will soon be able to run Linux GUI apps directly

JC Torres - May 20, 2020, 5:01am CDT
Windows 10 will soon be able to run Linux GUI apps directly

This is definitely not your grandfather’s Microsoft. Not too long ago, then-CEO Steve Ballmer called Linux a cancer. Today, Microsoft proclaims it loves Linux and open source, two things the company set out to destroy using whatever means necessary (and some argue it’s still doing behind the scenes). From the acquisition of GitHub to its Windows Subsystem for Linux, Microsoft has been increasing its efforts to woo Linux and open source developers and it has just made one of its biggest and most important announcements on that matter.

In 2016, Microsoft did the unimaginable and announced the WSL that would allow Linux developers, specifically web developers and system administrators, to do their Linux-centric work without having to leave Windows. Given its initial purpose and target audience, it wasn’t surprising that the implementation was designed to support only the non-graphical command line Linux programs. Unsurprisingly, Linux developers also found third-party workarounds to run their favorite GUI apps or even full graphical Linux desktops.

They won’t have to rely on those workarounds much longer. Microsoft is announcing that WSL will soon support running Linux GUI apps directly without having to use third-party tools and software. Part of this is thanks to improvements in WSL that leveraged modern graphics hardware for different scenarios, including machine learning and AI development.

In practice, this would mean that Linux developers will be able to use their favorite GUI software development tools or even develop Linux GUI apps inside Windows. Of course, it might also mean they will have fewer reasons to boot into a Linux system for those purposes. Expect debates and conspiracy theories (and perhaps some ugly exchanges) to ensure.

This offer to Linux developers and users is just one of a string of developer-centric announcements from Microsoft’s online BUILD 2020 conference. For power users, it also announced the availability of a new and more powerful Windows Terminal, now at version 1.0, as well as PowerToys Run that might remind macOS users of Apple’s age-old Spotlight search.

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