Linux Apps on Windows Is Coming

May 21, 2020

Linux GUI apps will be coming to Windows Subsystem for Linux.

At the 2020 Microsoft Build conference, it was announced that GUI applications will be available to run on WSL. This eye-opening feature comes by way of Wayland and RDP, which will draw the apps on the Windows desktop. It was also announced that access to GPUs from Linux is also on the way.

As of Windows 10 20H1, insiders are able to test the feature. However, testing availability for the general public has been delayed.

Back in 2018, Whitewater Foundry created a Debian-based distribution, named WLinux, which used a Windows X server to do this very thing. Now, according to Microsoft, "support for Linux graphical user interface (GUI) apps will enable you to open a WSL instance and run a Linux GUI app directly without the need for a third-party X server."

Hayden Barnes, Canonical senior developer advocate, indicated the company had been looking to include an X Server in their Ubuntu distribution (found in the Microsoft store). Instead of putting in that work alone, Canonical opted to collaborate with Microsoft to make it happen.

With the addition of GPU support, GPU accelerated workflows (such as TensorFlow on Microk8s, running on WSL) will be unlocked.

Users should expect to still have to use the command line to make GUI apps happen within WSL. At the same time, however, Microsoft has intimated that the WSL installation process will be made simpler.

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