From the Editors: Microsoft should rescue Mono

June 15, 2011 —  (Page 1 of 2)
Far be it for us to tell Microsoft how to run its business. That said: Microsoft should get behind the Mono project and help nurture it. The goodwill with developers (both open-source and Microsoft-centric) will ultimately be good for Microsoft.

If there’s one thing Microsoft knows for certain, it’s that if you have the developers on your side, and a huge stockpile of applications to run on your platform, you win. It’s why Microsoft won the operating-system wars for the desktop and the server. It’s why Apple grabbed the big early lead in the mobile platform war with the iPhone. Developers, that’s where it’s at.

While Miguel de Icaza was running the Mono project out of Novell, Microsoft took a hands-off approach: It didn’t actively support the project, but it didn’t overtly try to kill it either. (Some speculate Microsoft’s purchase of Novell patents during the sale to Attachmate may have influenced Attachmate’s decision to fire the Mono team... but for now, that is merely speculation.)

Support of the Mono Project may seem counterintuitive for Microsoft; after all, isn’t every Linux server running .NET applications under Mono a lost sales opportunity for Windows Server? While that’s true, there’s more to Mono than merely a free platform for running the Common Language Runtime.

After all, every application written to run on a Mono implementation was written using Microsoft’s specifications for .NET and the CLR, including its language. That means developers aren’t using competing languages and frameworks.

For example, Mono also serves as a native development platform for iOS and Android applications. From a developer perspective, being able to use Visual Studio for .NET to create applications for all those devices is most compelling. Without Mono, there is no single native development platform for those operating systems.

As Microsoft Regional Director Patrick Hynds pointed out in an e-mail to SD Times, “If the world builds their apps for mobile devices using .NET languages and tools, then I think that gives Microsoft a huge advantage. And if they don’t, then maybe someone will build an Objective C converter that makes it super easy to write your Objective C iPhone app and port it with a click to Android and Windows/Windows Phone. If that happens, then Microsoft will have missed the boat and its tools division will suffer.”

Related Search Term(s): Microsoft, Mono, SD Times 100

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06/19/2011 08:04:59 AM EST

I think what's missing in all of this is that MS Developer Division having revenue is *side effect* of the strategy of getting developers to write .NET apps in order to sell more OS, SQL Server, etc. licenses. As such, DevDiv revenues (while large to someone like me) are really quite paltry compared to the real powerhouse revenue-generators for MS and increasing those revenues will probably *never* be the driver of any strategic decision the company makes (at least not in the foreseeable future). In this context, anything DevDiv could do (including MONO) that doesn't directly help MS sell *other* of its own products is seen as a distraction/low priority for them. In this context, selling more VS licenses while enabling the sale of competing or replacement products (linux, Android, iOs, etc.) isn't in their (admittedly too narrow) interests and is the reason that MS has historically been luke-warm at best in re: its relationship to the MONO effort. Given this set of actual priorities for DevDiv, its hard to see how their embracing MONO could help them. Sure, they *might* get minor kudos from the small slice of the OSS-focused world not predisposed to hate all things from Redmond as a knee-jerk reaction, but at the expense of enabling the sale of products/platforms that directly compete with where the *real* money is made by MS. Such a move would make zero business sense given Microsoft's current business strategy IMO. Just my 2 cents -- I too wish for the success of MONO, but I doubt MS will be their White Knight (if indeed they need one at all).

United StatesSteve Bohlen

06/20/2011 12:43:43 PM EST

Great article! I think Microsoft should support and maybe even contribute to the open source Mono core. However, the Mono for iOS and Mono for Android products that Miguel and his new company are working on are probably best served by their independent company. By the way, you can't use Visual Studio with MonoTouch for iOS, but that's an Apple restriction. They require you to use OS X to develop iOS apps.

United StatesCoderDennis

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