Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mono redeemed

I don't know many people who like Mono. It's probably one of the most disliked projects in the open source world.

That's not to say that Mono is flawed or that it doesn't have a strong community - it does. The problem with Mono is fundamentally that it implements technology from the enemy: Micro$oft.

For myself - a Java guy - I detested Mono as nothing more than the usual scraps M$ throws it's competitors, besides .Net is an inferior technology anyway.

The big problem with these positions is that they tend to neglect Bug #1.

Realistically no company is in a position today to migrate their desktops off of a M$ platform. M$ Office aside, most enterprises usually have a catalogue of applications which only run on Windows. These applications normally represent an investment into productivity for that enterprise, whether they are off the shelf apps or apps developed internally.

The good news is that many of these applications are being developed in .Net. Why is this good news? well it's quite simple: if they are indeed .Net apps, it means they might have a chance to be ported to Mono running on Linux.

In a nutshell Mono can help be the fix to the bleak reality of Bug #1.

Of course it's not that simple, Mono will always play catchup to .Net in terms of functionality, not to mention the fact that Windows works differently to Linux so some recoding will always be necessary.

Nevertheless Mono can help retain the investment an enterprise has in an existing application and therefore at least reduce the magnitude of one obstacle in migrating to desktop Linux.

In view of this another contentious issue suddenly seems to make sense. One of the problems with Mono is the potential it has to violate patents and thus become a legal handle for M$ over open source.

A large problem until you consider that the effective steward of Mono is Novell. Of late Novell has been cuddling up to M$ in order to be protected from patent claims. A move for which it took a lot of flak from the open source community.

Many have said that this move is probably more to protect Mono than anything else. And from that point of view it puts Novell and by extension the open source community in a much better position to tackle Bug #1.

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