May 11, 2001

Windows Web browser plug-ins coming to Linux

Author: JT Smith

- By Dan Berkes -

Minnesota-based CodeWeavers is almost ready to release its new Crossover Plug-in, enabling Linux users to take advantage of Windows-based Web browser plug-ins, including those for Quicktime and Shockwave.
CodeWeavers is no stranger to the task of narrowing the feature gap between Windows and Linux operating systems. One of the company's core offerings is CodeWeavers Wine, an enhanced version of a program that allows Linux users to run Windows exectuables without having Windows installed on their systems. While desktop users will no doubt benefit from using the Crossover Plug-in, that's not the market that CodeWeavers has targeted.

CodeWeavers wants the Internet appliance market to sit up and take notice of its new baby.

"We feel that this product has great potential [for the embedded market]," says Jeremy White, company founder and CEO. In order to get the Windows features so many users require, embedded systems manufacturers are faced with a significant investment in licensing and other fees to obtain the Windows operating system.

Crossover brings a broad array of multimedia plug-in offerings to Linux, enabling Netscape, Mozilla, and Konqueror to run almost any plug-in designed for Windows-based browsers -- but without the mind-blowing costs of doing business with Redmond. The main requirement for running Crossover is a working Wine installation. Once Wine is installed, Windows plug-ins can be used without the major hassle or trauma involved with a lengthy configuration process.

White admits that the size of Wine might be a turnoff for some developers. "We will probably use select parts of Wine, for those instances where someone doesn't want or need all of Wine, but just enough to run the Crossover Plug-in."

The effort to create the technology that drives Crossover was no walk in the park. "It was quite a challenge," says White. "We're trying to convince a set of Windows products to run on Linux, and sometimes they didn't behave the way they should, particularly Shockwave." White says working with that particular chunk of multimedia caused a few hair-raising problems for a short period of time, but were eventually resolved.

CodeWeavers has high hopes for its Crossover, hoping that it generates sales -- and more importantly, revenue -- for the 20-person company. Although the company remains committed to Open Source through its contributions to Wine, it is, after all, a company and not a charitable foundation. "We've got to have a business model, and Crossover is a part of that business model," says White.

White points out that the Crossover Plug-in is not a part of Wine, but a program that links to Wine in order to run. The product will be sold to embedded manufacturers for use in their products. As for the desktop version, White says there's a chance that it might be released under the Artistic License, but the matter has yet to be resolved.

Also in the works is a program tenatively titled Crossover Display. That application would allow a Linux-based Internet appliance to start up Windows applications installed on neighboring computers with a mere click of a button or stroke of a keyboard -- without Windows installed on the appliance, of course. There are also plans for a Windows/Linux application server for release sometime in 2002.

The Crossover browser Plug-in for embedded devices is scheduled for release on Tuesday, May 15. The desktop distribution will be released later this summer; NewsForge will test a beta version within the next few weeks.

Category:

  • Linux
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