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CodeWeavers' CrossOver ran 32-bit Windows Intel binary on macOS on Arm CPU emulating x86 – and nobody died

Trying to get that one weird app working on new Mac silicon?

Anyone pondering how to get Intel-based Windows apps onto shiny new Apple M1 devices have been thrown a lifebelt by CodeWeavers.

CodeWeavers, noted for the tweaked version of Windows compatibility layer Wine, has run up its CrossOver product on hardware based on Apple's M1 silicon. The result will give heart to those keen to run the odd Windows app or two (so long as it is in the company's compatibility list) because it appears to work.

While specific benchmarks were not shared, the team took a new MacBook Air, popped on a beta of Big Sur 11.1 (to get access to some fixes in the Rosetta 2 translation layer), and fired up CrossOver 20.02. The excitement was palpable.

"I can't tell you how cool that is; there is so much emulation going on under the covers. Imagine – a 32-bit Windows Intel binary, running in a 32-to-64 bridge in Wine/CrossOver on top of macOS, on an ARM CPU that is emulating x86 – and it works! This is just so cool."

The team were able to bring up the likes of Quicken and Team Fortress 2, although the latter apparently showed some lag: "I think we've got some work to do on that front," admitted CodeWeavers founder Jeremy White.

CrossOver draws heavily on the Wine project, which aims to bring Windows apps to other platforms, notably Linux. Developers from CodeWeavers account for a good chunk of commits to the Wine project and the company proudly intoned: "The majority of the development we do goes into Wine first before it becomes part of our commercial product CrossOver."

It's potentially good news for folk with pockets deep enough to afford Apple's latest and greatest and have that one weird Windows app they cannot do without. However, it is important to check that compatibility list before getting one's hopes up – Wine is a compatibility layer, and so great swathes of Windows software may not work well. CodeWeavers presents a database of 16,179 applications with varying levels of functionality, of which 2,728 are "gold medal applications".

Running Windows apps on Intel-based Macs in the past has been a case of using something like Bootcamp or going down the virtualization route with tools such as Parallels Desktop.

The latter requires a Windows licence but does enjoy impressive compatibility with Microsoft's wares. It does remain a little way off launch, although Parallels has claimed "tremendous progress" for its product on the fruity chippery.

In the meantime, and for those needing an application that happens to be on the Nice list, CrossOver is worth taking for a spin. ®

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