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At Build 2020 today, Microsoft gave developers a slew of new tools to coax them into using Windows over macOS or Linux. Windows Terminal is now out of preview for enterprises, and Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) 2 is getting support for GPUs, Linux GUI apps, and a simplified install experience. Microsoft even released a Windows Package Manager in preview.
Windows 10 runs on 1 billion monthly active devices (PCs, Xbox One consoles, and HoloLens devices), making it a massive platform for developers to target. Earlier this month, Microsoft said the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in more engagement: More than 4 trillion minutes spent on Windows 10 a month, a 75% increase year-over-year. Developers thus have more reason than ever to improve existing apps — and build new apps — for Windows 10. Microsoft is making it easier to help them, and their businesses, do just that.
Windows Terminal 1.0
Microsoft today released Windows Terminal 1.0, which means it is stable for enterprise use. Windows Terminal first arrived in preview a year ago at Build 2019. You can download Windows Terminal from the Microsoft Store or manually from GitHub.
The open source application features multiple tabs, panes, tear-away windows, shortcuts, Unicode and UTF-8 character support, emojis, ligatures, extensions, a GPU-accelerated text rendering engine, and custom themes, styles, and configurations. Windows Terminal is for users of PowerShell, Cmd, WSL, and other command-line tools.
Microsoft also unveiled WSL improvements today, including support for GPUs, Linux GUI apps, and a simplified install experience. WSL is a compatibility layer for running Linux binary executables natively on Windows. Microsoft first shared it was working on WSL 2 a year ago at Build 2019. WSL 2 is slated to arrive in the next major Windows 10 update coming later this month (brilliantly called the Windows 10 May 2020 Update), but it won’t have these new features.
In the second half of the year, WSL 2 will get support for GPU compute workflows. This will let Linux tools leverage GPUs to enable hardware acceleration for many development scenarios, such as parallel computation, as well as training AI and ML models. “GPU support will be available within the next few months to users on Windows Insider Fast ring,” a Microsoft spokesperson told VentureBeat.
WSL 2 is also getting support for Linux GUI apps, though exactly when is unclear. “We’ll have more to share on timing of Linux GUI app support later this year,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. The change will let users open a WSL instance and run a Linux GUI app directly — without a third-party server. For developers, that means being able to run their favorite IDEs in a Linux environment.
Finally, later this year WSL 2 will support a simplified install experience. Developers will be able to simply run the command “wsl.exe –install” and reboot. It will thus be easier to get started using Linux apps on Windows (currently, developers have to use the Microsoft Store). “A simplified install experience will be available within the next few months to users on Windows Insider Fast ring,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.