Developers and corporate customers eager to get their hands on an open-source version of Microsoft's .Net line of programming tools will need to wait a little longer.
The first version of the Mono project, which is designed to let developers create .Net applications for Linux and Unix, will be available in the second quarter of 2004, according to Novell, which became the owner of Mono through its acquisition of open-source software maker Ximian earlier this year.
The Mono project, started in 2001 by programmer Miguel de Icaza, operates as an open-source project under the auspices of Ximian. About a year ago, de Icaza said an initial release of Mono would be available by the end of 2003.
Novell also said that future versions of Mono will give developers tools for building GUIs, or graphical user interfaces, for Linux or Unix .Net applications.
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Novell delays Mono, an open-source project to recreate Microsoft's .Net development software on Unix and Linux.
Since Novell acquired Mono's creator, Ximian, its plans for Mono, which is tightly linked to rival Microsoft's efforts, are being closely watched.
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Microsoft's .Net software includes programming tools and the .Net Framework, the software plumbing installed on Windows machines that's needed to run .Net applications. The Mono project is taking advantage of published specifications for .Net to re-create the environment for Linux and Unix.
"Linux on the desktop is becoming a viable option for an increasing number of IT (information technology) buyers," Chris Stone, vice chairman of Novell's office of the CEO, said in a statement on Tuesday. "To be successful, developers need a productive development environment, stable APIs (application programming interfaces) and a well-defined technology roadmap."
Novell's plans for Mono--which is tightly linked to Microsoft's plans--are being watched closely, as Novell has become more of a direct competitor to Microsoft. The company has become a powerhouse in the open-source world, through its acquisitions of both Ximian and, earlier this month, Linux distributor SuSE Linux.
Novell has adopted a strategy of offering open-source alternatives to Microsoft's software. But Mono does not pose a significant short-term threat to either Microsoft's .Net development line or Java-based development, said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at RedMonk.
"Mono's clearly intended to provide some of the .Net advantages to open-source advocates, but that class of developer is usually virulently anti-Microsoft, so winning them over to a Microsoft-related initiative, even if it's open source, is likely to be a significant challenge," O'Grady said.
"I think they're likely to try to make inroads to the corporate market, specifically with customers with some Java pains or those .Net shops concerned about being too close to Microsoft," O'Grady added.
In the latest Mono timeline, de Icaza said that he would like to incorporate a series of enhancements that Microsoft is planning for .Net. At Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference last month, Microsoft described how the company is reworking its Windows operating system and development tools to improve connectivity, storage and presentation of Windows applications.
Mono version 1.0 is expected to include a compiler for developers to write code with Microsoft's C# language. The Mono toolkit will be designed to generate Unix or Linux application code to run on machines with x86, or Intel compatible, processors as well as PowerPC-based processors.
The first version of Mono will be designed to be compatible with Microsoft's .Net 1.0 and .Net 1.1. Version 1.2 of Mono, targeted for completion by the fourth quarter of 2004, will include additional "libraries," or tools, for building GUI-based applications and support some features in .Net 1.2.