In a post examining some of the implications of the Microsoft-Novell deal around open source, fellow ZDNet blogger John Carroll reveals an interesting, and underreported, side benefit -- that the Mono Project, the open-source implementation of the .NET runtime now under the aegis of Novell, may be able to flourish unencumbered by legal threats from Microsoft.
At the very least, this may pertain at least to Mono implementations supported by Novell or SUSE Linux, as discussed by Tim Anderson in his blog. It's unclear how much protection non-Novell customers implementing Mono will have.
On face value, Mono appears to be a direct threat to Microsoft's .NET Framework, the vanguard of the vendor's march into Web services and SOA. But if that were purely the case, Microsoft would have had no reason not to bring its billion-dollar hammer down on the project ages ago. And now, Microsoft even seems to be endorsing the effort as part of the Novell deal.
Perhaps Microsoft recognizes that Mono brings Linux and Unix shops into the .NET orbit. As John puts it:
"If the technical professionals migrating to Linux are mostly Unix types, getting them on-board with .NET is certainly a great way to get their feet wet in the 'Windows programming universe.'"
Neither Microsoft nor the open-source side is likely to gain or lose anything, however, John predicts. It's likely that developers will flow in equal proportions both ways between the Windows/.NET and Linux/Unix/Mono worlds. The winners may be the developers and their enterprises, who will have more choices and greater productivity.
Let's hope this spirit extends beyond the boundaries of the Novell-Microsoft agreement.