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Novell ships cross-platform Mono tool

Company's open-source project aims bring easy-to-use .Net tools to Linux and other operating systems.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
2 min read
Novell on Wednesday released open-source software for programmers who want to use Microsoft's development tools to write applications on non-Windows operating systems, including Linux.

The Mono Project is intended to bring the ease of use that marks Microsoft's .Net tools to developers creating software for non-Microsoft operating systems, said Mono founder Miguel de Icaza, now vice president of development at Novell. Novell gained stewardship of Mono when it acquired open-source software company Ximian last year.

"Mono helps developers focus on what they are doing rather than the nitty-gritty details of the platform they are working with," de Icaza said.

As part of the release of Mono 1.0, Novell has started a Web site with resources and information for Mono developers.

The Mono 1.0 software includes a compiler for the Microsoft-created C# programming language and other .Net-based tools for speeding application development, including ASP.Net for building Web applications and ADO.Net for accessing databases. Mono also includes versions of the .Net "runtimes," software needed to run .Net applications, for Linux, Unix and Apple Computer's OS X.

De Icaza started the project three years ago, taking advantage of the publication of the C# language and other core pieces of its Visual Studio .Net development tools, including common-language runtime. Microsoft had submitted C# and related development technology to Ecma International for standardization.

Like Microsoft's Visual Studio .Net development tool, Mono enables programmers to write software code with different languages, including C#, Java, Python, Visual Basic and Jscript.

Microsoft originally released its first version of Visual Studio in 2002, well ahead of the release of Mono, which had delays in its delivery schedule before being released in a test version earlier this year. With the next version of Mono, de Icaza said, he thinks that the Mono Project will be able to more closely track updates to the .Net software, he said.

"We're already working on .Net 2.0 features," de Icaza said. Microsoft expects to deliver .Net 2.0 in the first half of next year with Visual Studio 2005. By contrast, many aspects of Longhorn, the next full upgrade of Microsoft Windows, are still unsettled, he said. "For Longhorn, we're not touching it yet."

Novell is so committed to Mono that it has stopped using the C++ language to develop two of its products--iFolder and ZenWorks--in favor of Mono.

Although the Mono Project promises to simplify the process of building cross-platform applications, Microsoft does not view Mono as a competitive threat to its own development tools business, said John Montgomery, director of marketing for Microsoft's product division. Microsoft's .Net Framework, the runtime software needed to run and build .Net applications for Windows, is very thorough and can address many different application development needs, he said.

"Mono has taken a small subset of .Net and cloned--and it's unclear how much they've cloned and how good it is," Montgomery said.