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Of Monopolies and Mono - page 2

Mono and the Endless Controversy

  • July 9, 2009
  • By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols
Jason Perlow, writer and system integrator, thinks that "Mono as a language is no more encumbered to the vendor that created the API (application programming interface) specification and the C# language than Java and J2EE is." Perlow continued, "Given that Mono is an independent implementation and can fork at any time; will always be behind the Microsoft implementation ; and is an open specification, it's just as valid a development platform for Linux as any other language. It's no more at risk of patent violation than Java is."

Mono's chief architect and Novell staffer, Miguel de Icaza, realizes that Microsoft's announcement might not be enough for some free-software purists, so he plans on addressing these concerns in the next versions of Mono. De Icaza wrote , "Astute readers will point out that Mono contains much more than the ECMA standards, and they will be correct. In the next few months we will be working towards splitting the jumbo Mono source code that includes ECMA + A lot more into two separate source code distributions. One will be ECMA, the other will contain our implementation of ASP.NET, ADO.NET, Winforms and others." With this, Linux distributors and users can choose how close they want to get to .NET.

Peter Brown, the Free Software Foundation's executive director, though still isn't impressed. Brown said, "It's my understanding that Microsoft has not yet announced anything officially, but assuming it follows up on this blog post and covers ECMA 334 and 335 under the Community Promise, it will not protect free software from the threats we have been discussing That's because Mono implements, and Tomboy depends upon, a number of libraries which are 'standard' in the sense that they're under C#'s "System" namespace (indicating that they're part of the standard library) and provided in Microsoft's implementation, but somewhat pointedly excluded from the ECMA specifications."

So, Brown continued, "If the question is, should GNU/Linux distributions include Mono? Then the community promise from Microsoft covering these two specifications clearly isn't sufficient. That they won't sue us for infringement of some of their Mono patents is useless if they reserve the right to sue us over other Mono patents. If Microsoft really wants to assure the free software community that it does not intend to attack applications based on Mono in the future, it should issue a patent license to everyone for all the patents that are necessarily infringed by the complete implementation of Mono, that allows users to use, share, and modify the software as they see fit."

That last is very unlikely to happen. Microsoft doesn't give that kind of blanket patent license to even their closest partners like Citrix Systems and Novell.

But, Roy Schestowitz, editor of Boycott Novell thinks that focusing on the patent issue alone is a mistake. Schestowitz said, "Patents were never the sole issue when it comes to Mono." Microsoft doesn't allow deviation from the .NET core. "This ensures that Microsoft stays in control. This leads to no independence, which Microsoft may describe as 'fragmentation.'"

Dan Kusnetzky, who as VP of research operations forThe 451 Group doesn't have a dog in this fight, concludes with these words of caution, "Organizations must consider if they want Microsoft to be the provider for their standard program to program communications architecture or if they would prefer to base their infrastructure on international,multi-vendor, multi-platform standards." That said, "if the organization has selected Microsoft's .Net architecture as an internal standard, then having the ability to use a Linux system as a tributary would be a good thing."

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was the operating system of choice for PCs and 2BSD Unix was what the cool kids used on their computers.

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