Mono Guru Speaks About His Project

The man behind Mono, Miguel de Icaza, CTO for Novell's Ximian division, spoke last week with Computerworld about the open-source project that he helped launch to enable .Net applications to run on Linux and Unix. Excerpts from the interview follow:

When was the Mono project originally due? The Mono runtime was intended to be released a year ago or so. But it was only the [virtual machine] and the C# compiler. ... Basically, the scope of Mono has been growing.

How much of the .Net Framework will be supported? It's easy to say what we include in Mono and what we do not include. It's going to be the corporate tool machine, so that's essentially the runtime that lets you run applications. But the libraries are what makes it really interesting, so the libraries that we're shipping in this version include all of the XML functionality in .Net; ADO.Net, which is the database connectivity tool kit; [and] ASP.Net, which includes both support for creating Web services and creating Web applications.

The two big missing pieces are called Windows Forms, which is a technology for building client applications as opposed to Web applications, and we're also making a technology called Enterprise Services, which is used for transaction management.

How would a developer work around the missing client functionality? We have our own set of libraries for doing client functionality. We just don't have one that will transparently move your Windows client apps to Linux. We have something which is Unix-specific today. But by the end of next year, we will have the Windows compatibility.

Do you have any concerns about Microsoft raising intellectual property issues? My main concern with Microsoft is not that one, because .Net is basically a retooling of Java. ... Microsoft should be concerned about .Net. My main concern really is Longhorn in the 2006 time frame. They're adding a lot of APIs, and that's going to be hard to catch up with.

What kind of reaction have you gotten from Microsoft about the Mono project? The only people who I have talked to are their engineers or the ECMA [standards] committee ... and so far, it's been great. They're very receptive. They help a lot with every problem we have in the spec. ... They're very supportive at the engineering level. We've had a few high-level talks with them, but nothing really concrete.

Can you foresee any potential legal issues? The only potential legal problem is whether there is a patent on [any] API, and we have a couple of options when we're dealing with patents. The first option is [to] look for prior art, because Microsoft might be granted a patent that they don't really deserve. ... If we cannot find prior art, then we will have to remove that functionality from the Mono runtime, and for customers, we'll negotiate a license for the patents with Microsoft.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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