Mono, open-source .NET for Android, Linux and iOS, lives on

When Novell dropped Mono, even after its founder created a new company to support it, it looked like it was a dead language walking. Now, with support from SUSE Linux, Mono lives on.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

When Novell's new owner, Attachmate, announced that it was letting Miguel de Icaza, the founder and lead developer of Mono go, I assumed Mono, the open-source implementation of Microsoft's .NET was a dead development platform walking. Even after de Icaza launched his own company, Xamarin, to keep Mono going, I had little hopes Mono would survive. Well, it looks like I was wrong.

Xamarin has convinced SUSE--Attachmate's Linux branch--to give it Mono's intellectual property. In return, Xamarin will provide technical support to SUSE customers using Mono-based products, and assume stewardship of the Mono open source community project.

In a statement, Nils Brauckmann, president and general manager of SUSE, said, "This partnership is a triple win--a win for SUSE, a win for Xamarin, but most importantly, a win for our customers, users and community. Our partnership ensures SUSE customers continue to get the best support possible, enables the bright team at Xamarin to achieve success in their promising new Where Novell & SUSE Linux goes from here venture, and provides continuity of stewardship for the Mono open source community project in the very capable hands of its most passionate evangelists."

The partnership agreement will ensures that current and future SUSE customers hosting applications on SUSE Linux Enterprise Mono Extension application server will continue to receive full commercial support for their platform from SUSE, backed by Xamarin. Current SUSE customers using Mono developer tools, including MonoTouch, Mono for the iOS device family; Mono for Android; and Mono Tools for Visual Studio, will receive support and updates directly from Xamarin for the remainder of their subscription period.

For more information about support options for SUSE, customers should go to www.suse.com/mono. For more information about Xamarin support for Mono, go to support.xamarin.com .

That was the first part of Xamarin's news. It set the foundation for what the company must hope will be its future as a mobile development platform. In a blog posting, de Icaza wrote, "We are a young company, but we are completely dedicated to these mobile products and we can not wait to bring smiles to every one of our customers."

Specifically, Xamarin announced that "Xamarin's Mono-based products [will] enable .NET developers to use their existing code, libraries and tools (including Visual Studio*), as well as skills in .NET and the C# programming language, to create mobile applications for the industry's most widely-used mobile devices, including Android-based smartphones and tablets, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch."

"Our mission is to make it fast, easy and fun to build great mobile apps, whether for individual consumers or for enterprises," said Nat Friedman, Xamarin's CEO in a statement. "Since the introduction of MonoTouch in 2009, developers have experienced how Mono can streamline mobile application development. Xamarin will continue to innovate to deliver incredible experiences to iOS and Android developers."

In his blog, de Icaza added, "Our immediate plans for both MonoTouch and Mono for Android is to make sure that your critical and major bugs are fixed. We have been listening to the needs of the community and we are working to improve these products to meet your needs. You can expect updates to the products in the next week."

De Icaza also wrote, "In the past couple of months, we have met with some of our users and we have learned a lot about what you wanted. We incorporated your feature requests into our products road-maps for both the MonoTouch [for iOS] and the Mono for Android products."

"Another thing we learned is that many companies need to have a priority support offering for this class of products, so we have introduced this. It can either be purchased when you first order MonoTouch or Mono for Android, or you get an upgrade to get the priority support."

Will this be sufficient to make Mono a viable development platform? I think it might. Mono, despite some excellent programs such as the Banshee media player, never found much traction on the Linux desktop. In the far larger Android and iOS developer markets, Mono may yet find success.

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