The news that Ubuntu will drop support for the 32-bit x86 architecture was discussed recently by the Wine developers, on the Wine-devel mailing list. The Wine developers are concerned with this news because many 64-bit Windows applications still use a 32-bit installer, or some 32-bit components.
That’s an interesting side-effect of going 64 bit-only that I hadn’t even considered. This can be a serious blow to Ubuntu users who use Wine, but I do wonder just how popular Wine really is.
I hadn’t even thought of that either. When ubuntu said it would drop 32bit, I understood that to mean it would drop it’s 32bit libraries and app repos, but it’s not immediately clear that Ubuntu would go so far as to disable 32bit support from the kernel itself? If 32bit processes and interfaces are still supported by the kernel, then wine could link statically and build it’s own dependencies, it’s just more work for them that they didn’t previously have to do.
If at some point 32bit processes were to be completely disabled in ubuntu’s linux kernel, then 32bit wine technology on linux becomes nonviable. Wine, who’s official moto is “Wine Is Not an Emulator”, would have to incorporate emulatation in order to continue existing going forward. Something akin to DOSBox and DOSEmu, or better yet run windows apps inside of virtualization/QEMU. Seems feasible, but requires new engineering.
I think the kernel will still have 32bit support, pretty sure you can’t rip that out, but it sounds like they want to disable 32bit library support, which will kill Wine, PCSX2, some NES and Genesis emulators, not to mention a WHOLE lot of binary only games on Steam. Well, and Steam. Pretty much anything in their repo that is packaged as package:i386.
If you wonder how popular wine is, it’s REALLY popular. Tons of things use it, and for a lot of people it bridges that layer they need between getting away from Windows, and allowing them to still enjoy their software library.