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Mono’s Demise Good News for Free Software

Posted in Action, GPL, Intellectual Monopoly, Interoperability, Java, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, OpenOffice, Patent Covenant at 6:11 pm by Shane Coyle

In a recent Computerworld article, Neil McAllister opined that Mono’s demise (is) bad news for Open Source, which may be true. But, as has been said before, "Open Source" != "Free Software", or even Open Standards for that matter.

Not only has it been feared for some time by many in the community, I have previously argued on this site that Mono is a legal minefield, and McAllister concedes that the Microvell deal only serves to reinforce those suspicions:

Microsoft’s recent announcements about indemnification only underscore concerns about Mono — particularly given that Novell is the primary sponsor of the project. Foremost among these has always been the issue of intellectual property. Critics warned that despite de Icaza’s and Microsoft’s protestations to the contrary, Mono exists solely at the whim of Microsoft. Any time Redmond feels like pulling the rug out from beneath them, Mono developers could find themselves subject to patent-infringement lawsuits.

As part of its agreement with Novell, Microsoft has now enumerated a short list of those categories of developers that it promises not to sue. The implicit message is that everyone else should watch out — and watch out they shall. The availability of Java under the GPL now gives those developers who want modern language features an alternative to Mono, and they need never look back.

Recently, it was pointed out that Mono is not going to be included in Red Hat’s Enterprise Linux 5, and many believe that the Microvell deal at least played a part in that decision. Interestingly, Red Hat paints a different picture, instead pointing out that Mono is an example of limited, one-way interoperability – behavior we have come to expect from Microsoft, and of late Novell as well.

“It had nothing to do with recent Microsoft Novell thing,” Joel Berman a Red Hat Enterprise Linux product marketing director, told internetnews.com.

According to Berman, discussions related to the inclusion of Mono had been going on before the Novell Microsoft deal was announced.

Rather than citing the potential legal risk Berman noted the technical limitations of Mono as the reasons why Red Hat won’t include Mono in RHEL 5.

“We don’t like the fact that though it’s very easy to write stuff in Mono and port to Windows, it’s very difficult to take Windows applications and move them back over to Linux,” Berman said.

It is clear that Novell intends to market itself as in a unique position to provide a "Doorway to Windows" as a result of their recent agreement, and apparently they have no problem with it being a one-way door so long as they get part of the toll. I envision Novell developing proprietary plugins for Novell OpenOffice.org that provide improved Open XML support over the "Open Source" version they give back under their BSD-like-license, and I am not alone.

Just as Georg C. F. Greve suggested that Novell’s Danaergeschenk of Open XML support in OpenOffice should be avoided, Mono should be eschewed as well.

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A Single Comment

  1. Draconishinobi said,

    December 10, 2006 at 8:17 pm


    I think getting rid of mono is a good thing, mostly because it hardly serves any purpose whatsoever, it is a legal minefield, and the “limited one-way interoperability” is not representative of open-source mentality but instead of M$ mentality. No reason to have it around, every reason to get rid of it … it should go, and so it has.

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