Microsoft isn’t exactly turning Windows 10 into a GNU/Linux distribution, but the lines seem to be getting blurrier all the time.

When Windows 10 first launched, it was the first version of Microsoft’s desktop operating system to feature an optional Windows Subsystem for Linux, allowing developers and advanced users to install a Linux distro within Windows and run command line tools.

Now the company is adding support for desktop Linux apps as well — you’ll soon be able to download and install desktop Linux apps on a Windows 10 computer and run them as if they were native apps.

That means that in addition to text-based, terminal-only applications, you’ll be able to see the complete graphical user interface. Most importantly, this will be a native Windows feature, so you don’t need to install a third-party X server (a hack that some people have been using to run Linux apps with a GUI for years).

Microsoft is also adding support for hardware-accelerated graphics to the Windows Subsystem for Linux. While that could theoretically help with games and multimedia applications, Microsoft is announcing the new features during its MS Build developer conference, so the company is focusing on how this will help developers leverage GPUs for machine learning and AI applications.

The company is also going to make it easier to install the Windows Subsystem for Linux with a simple text command (wsl.exe – install).

Meanwhile, Microsoft is also borrowing an idea from Linux operating systems and introducing a Windows Package Manager. This open source tool will help developers and other users download and install apps quickly using a command line interface.

This is something that’s been a part of most popular Linux distributions for decades, and is sort of a predecessor to the app store model. In this case, Microsoft will maintain a repository of applications submitted by the company’s developers and third-party developers, and users will be able to quickly and easily download and install them on their PCs.

A preview of the Windows Package Manager is now available from the Microsoft Store, and all you need to try it is a computer running the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (1709) or later.

via Microsoft and Windows Command Line blog

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  1. This is nice. I’ve been using Cygwin still. Maybe I’ll starting using WSL.

    I also like the Windows Package Manger. I’d use it to automate installing SW after a clean install. I guess there’s Chocolatey but a built-in solution would be nicer. I hope it takes off and the packages in the repo grow.

  2. I predict the next major version of Windows after 10 will be Linux/UNIX based. The business/enterprise version will include a VM to run legacy Windows apps and software. Things seem to be steadily headed that way with the small moves Microsoft has made (e.g. github, Chromium Edge, etc.).

    1. Not Linux as long as Linux is GPL. Windows can only get away with having the WSL without Open Sourcing their entire operating system.

  3. There are some things I like about app ecosystem and some things I hate. Of course the convenience is unrivaled, but the security implications are too worrysome. Apps should never run as root or its equivalent. Can we invent a way to mount without root access and inside a non-root namespace, jails for example? I realize that complicates file system access but then again things are already nailed down a filesystem, apps shouldnt run as root on any OS, and especially cloud derived apps.

  4. This should be a welcome change but it will invariably fuel the stigma that linux purists are paranoid misfits who deserve only your disdain.
    I imagine that all arguments will be some variation of this theme:
    “Why aren’t you using windows/chromeos? It can do everything linux can do now and run windows/android apps natively!”
    Followed by insults.

    1. Not sure where you’ve been hanging out, but even here on Liliputing there is a group of Linux purists who insist that every step Microsoft takes adding Linux to Windows is always bad, and that the dumb idiots stuck with corporate software should just man up and install FOSS, or something.
      But fundamentally, I agree, and we should try not to let vocal minorities on either side ruin this news.