CrossOver: How 1M+ Mac and Linux Users Run Business-Critical Windows Applications Without System Slowdowns
10.24.17 Software

CrossOver: How 1M+ Mac and Linux Users Run Business-Critical Windows Applications Without System Slowdowns

By: Jon McDonald

The Crunch: When it’s necessary to run critical Windows-based applications on Mac or Linux computers, CrossOver can help businesses get things done. The software translates communications between Windows apps and incompatible operating systems, allowing them to work together seamlessly without any of the hiccups that can come with other solutions. And as apps and operating systems change, businesses can count on CodeWeavers, the company that produces CrossOver, to support their investment over time. CrossOver is an easy-to-use interoperability solution that can help companies save money on hardware and software without compromising their technology goals.

When the time comes to invest in new technology, smart businesses want as many options on the table as possible. They want to optimize their tech spend without introducing new headaches or making life difficult for their employees.

They want their tech to just work.

Unfortunately, computers and networks don’t always work well together. Out of the many complexities, one of the biggest is software incompatibility. How many managers have wanted to upgrade to a leaner platform but were held back by essential software that wouldn’t work on the new system? How many office workers have a story about that one annoying program that just won’t play with anything else on the network?

Photo of James Ramey, President of CodeWeavers

James Ramey, President of CodeWeavers, talked with us about how CrossOver can help businesses.

That’s where CrossOver fits in. CrossOver is software that lets businesses run Windows applications on Mac and Linux computers. And it does this in a way that’s easy to understand, easy to manage, and easy for employees to work with — without compromising speed or putting up any roadblocks.

James Ramey, President of CodeWeavers, the Minnesota company that designed CrossOver and supports it on more than a million Mac and Linux computers, said that it works by creating a translation layer between the application and the operating system (OS). “The application thinks it’s running on Windows, and the OS thinks that the application is native.”

That means that CrossOver doesn’t interrupt what people are trying to accomplish at work.

“We’re a great fit for enterprises that are looking to support at least some of their people on Mac or Linux — but they have a couple of Windows apps they just can’t live without. We act as a utility to seamlessly support those apps in the alternate environment.”

That opens up a lot of possibilities.

Businesses Find Cost-Effective Flexibility in CrossOver

Microsoft builds products in many categories that support millions and millions of businesses across the globe. And that fact creates the problem that CrossOver was built to solve: Windows has such a hold on the enterprise software market that many mission-critical office applications simply aren’t produced in Mac- or Linux-compatible versions.

But when it comes to outfitting end-users in a corporate office environment, there are plenty of non-Windows use cases that can make sense. In those instances, CrossOver makes incompatibility with Windows apps a non-issue.

A non-Windows platform can be appropriate in a cost-saving environment. “Different flavors of Linux are lower-cost alternatives,” James said. Security is another: “Google offers a lot of ways to lock down a Chromebook that you just don’t have on a Windows computer, and Mac and Linux don’t attract nearly the same level of attention from bad actors as Windows does,” he said.

CrossOver can also eliminate retraining costs. “Because we can continue to make available a familiar Windows version of an important app, the training issue is solved for the business and the end-user,” James said. “We can drastically reduce the learning curve when a business goes through a software transition process.”

Companies that need to accommodate a subset of Windows users on alternate platforms — including remote or contract workers — also find utility in CrossOver. “Look at the creative world,” James said, “where you’re using applications like Photoshop, and your environment feeds off the beauty and elegance of the Mac and applications that are best suited to the Mac. In environments like that, the ability to run Windows apps alongside them becomes extremely important.”

Businesses can also extend the life of their hardware when CrossOver is installed in a lower-cost Linux environment. Linux tends to run faster than Windows, James said, and Linux laptops “can run for seven, eight, nine years because you’re able to do everything you need to do on them. That becomes a pretty attractive option for a lot of businesses.”

CrossOver Easily Runs Windows Applications at Native Speed

The technical underpinnings of CrossOver differentiate it from dual-boot and virtual-machine (VM) competitors.

“That’s one of the beautiful things about our software: it just works,” James said. “We use the native file folders so that users can click through their normal folders. They can print right from the application they’re working in — CrossOver uses the actual print driver from the OS. So, connecting to the internet, printing, networking — we’re traversing those connections that have already been established.”

Dual-boot solutions use a separate storage partition to accommodate a Windows OS installation alongside the alternate OS. That works well, but the only way to switch between the operating systems is to reboot.

Screenshot of CrossOver specs

VMs create an additional, separate OS environment that operates simultaneously, but separately, on the computer. “It’s almost like a safe — a sealed box,” James said. “So you have to kind of deliberately put things into the box to access them with the app you want to use, and take them out again to deal with them with the rest of your computer. You don’t have access to those established connections like we do.”

That means CrossOver produces a nearly native experience for the end-user, James said, while the vast amounts of computing power required by VM solutions invariably impose performance penalties.

CodeWeavers Provides Support and Security for CrossOver

CrossOver is the commercial implementation of software developed by the Wine project, an open-source movement that has advocated for Windows cross-compatibility since the early 1990s. Wine — and CrossOver — were initially built for Linux users. When Apple moved to Intel processors in 2006, CodeWeavers built a Mac implementation of CrossOver. Now, with CrossOver Chrome OS, the company is preparing to make Windows apps available on Chromebooks.

“We provide that expected level of support that goes along with the sale, and ensure customers receive CrossOver updates when their apps and when an OS changes.” — James Ramey, President of CodeWeavers

All CrossOver products offer the level of service any customer would expect. “CodeWeavers is the service behind the software,” James said. “That’s critical for businesses because work can’t just stop. They want answers quickly, they want support, they want someone who’s going to pick up the phone. We also package the product, so it’s easier for people to download, install, and use.”

“And we continue to update the product,” he said. “Wine is the core of what we do, but it’s not really accountable to anybody. But when an app or OS update breaks an application on CrossOver, we respond. We provide that expected level of support that goes along with the sale, and ensure customers receive CrossOver updates when their apps and when an OS changes.”

Use the Hardware You Want to Run the Applications You Need

Businesses make decisions on tech purchases based on cost, functionality, security, and durability. While necessary, cross-platform application performance isn’t always a deciding factor, and with CrossOver, it doesn’t have to be.

Screenshot of CrossOver product

“You want to be able to take an application and data and run it on any hardware, anywhere in the world,” James said. “That’s what gives you maximum flexibility. And our type of technology lends itself to that.”

Working in a multi-OS environment facilitated by CrossOver might be as close as the tech world has gotten to achieving software convergence.

“One of the things I’ve advocated for strongly is this idea of convergence, where the end hardware just doesn’t matter anymore,” James said. “We’re helping with this move away from application-specific hardware — where a program runs on only one operating system.”

It all comes down to businesses asking themselves what they really want to accomplish with their technology, figuring out what tools they need to achieve it, and eliminating the pain points.

“When things ‘just work,’ it’s like waving a magic wand,” James said.