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Google Windows apps coming to Linux


Google and CodeWeavers Inc. are working together to bring Google’s popular Windows Picasa photo editing and sharing program to Linux. The program is now in a limited beta test. If this program is successful, other Google applications will be following it to the Linux desktop, sources say.

The Linux Picasa implementation includes the full feature set of the Windows Picasa 2.x software. It is not, strictly speaking, a port of Picasa to Linux. Instead, Linux Picasa combines Windows Picasa code and Wine technology to run Windows Picasa on Linux. This, however, will be transparent to Linux users, when they download, install, and run the free program on their systems.

Wine is an open-source implementation of the Windows API (application programming interface). It runs, in turn, on top of the X Window System and Linux (or Unix). Wine is not, as has sometimes been said, a Windows emulator. Wine provides a Windows API middleware layer that enables Windows programs, such as Office 2003, to run on Linux without the slowing effects of an operating system emulation or a virtual machine. Indeed, in some respects, Wine on Linux is faster than XP on the same hardware.

The new program is reportedly re-tooled to work perfectly under CodeWeaver’s CrossOver Office Wine emulation. This may mean that Linux Picasa is using the program’s own native Windows DLLs (dynamic link libraries). Wine enables developers to use Windows DLLs for greater speed when they’re available.

The free Linux Picasa download will include a runtime version of CodeWeavers’s modified Wine, so that users can simply download the package from Google and run it on their Linux system. Users will not need to download and install Wine, or to purchase CodeWeavers’s commercial version of Wine, CrossOver Office.

Sources close to the project said that the Linux version of Picasa is meant to be as easy to install as the Windows version.

Officially, CodeWeavers had no comment about this project. Google public relations replied that “We don’t have any information to share at this time,” on the project or any business relationship with CodeWeavers.

Sources close to CodeWeavers, though, said that CodeWeavers has been tasked with the job of making sure that Picasa will work well with Wine and Linux. If successful, future versions of Picasa will be written to the Wine APIs so that the program can easily run on both Windows and Linux with Wine.

Sources also said that Picasa for Linux will be out shortly. Further, if the Linux Picasa project is successful, you can expect to see other Google Windows programs migrating to Linux via Wine and CodeWeavers.

According to sources close to Google, another popular Google Windows program is also coming over to Linux: the Google Talk client.

This project, however, is not going through CodeWeavers. Instead, sources indicate that a beta version of Google Talk for Linux has been created within Google.

While no further information was forthcoming on this project, it is worth noting that Google hired Sean Egan, the lead developer of the popular open-source IM client GAIM in October 2005. GAIM, itself, already supports the Jabber protocol, which Google Talk uses, and can be configured to work with Google Talk.

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