Two weeks ago we covered the news that the Mono development team were
let go kicked out by the new owners of Novel, Attachmate, apparently to move operations to Germany. Miguel de Icazza, founder of Mono, has taken this opportunity to break off on his own and has started a new company, Xamarin, to bring commercial .NET development products to iOS and Android.
The formation of this new company sounds like something that Miguel has been trying to get Novell to do for a while (much in the vein of The Document Foundation spinning off Libre Office nÃ©e OpenOffice, but that took 10 years).
We have been trying to spin Mono off from Novell for more than a year now. Everyone agreed that Mono would have a brighter future as an independent company, so a plan was prepared last year.
Execution of this plan was cut-short (or pushed forward, depending on how you look at it) when Attachmate took action.
To make a long story short, the plan to spin off was not executed. Instead on Monday May 2nd, the Canadian and American teams were laid off; Europe, Brazil and Japan followed a few days later. These layoffs included all the MonoTouch and MonoDroid engineers and other key Mono developers. Although Attachmate allowed us to go home that day, we opted to provide technical support to our users until our last day at Novell, which was Friday last week.
Miguel and his team will now continue to work on Mono, their first commercial product to be an iPhone (and then Android) .NET development stack:
The new versions of .NET for the iPhone and Android will be source compatible with MonoTouch and Mono for Android. Like those versions, they will be commercial products, built on top of the open core Mono.
Moonlight will then also be ported to both platforms, opening more avenues for .NET-stack developers to access.
In addition to these programs, the new company will also offer commercial support for Mono, as well as custom development work; “A company that provides International Mono Support, if you will.”
The commercial products will obviously keep the company afloat, but this will not distract Miguel from working on the core Mono open source code. The company promises to “Continue to contribute, maintain and develop the open source Mono and Moonlight components.”
I always believe that it is better for someone passionate about their product to be more in control of it, and I’m sure with some new found freedoms and a new product focus, Miguel can do a great deal of good with the situation he finds himself in. As I am in no way involved with Mono, I cannot gauge what troubles may lie ahead when it comes to Attachmate starting up development work on Mono again in Germany. Will Miguel’s presence in the community as benevolent dictator clash with the new Novell? I can’t say. Perhaps everybody will get on peachy as both are working toward stronger commercial acceptance of Mono-based tools.
From the beginning I have always worried that Miguel’s disregard for Microsoft’s patents on .NET will one day come back to bite him. This latest action doesn’t strengthen my faith in his decisions. Now he has decided to port Mono to iOS, a platform where the vendor has been extremely hostile to alternative development tools in the past and has a penchant for changing the rules with no recourse for developers. That said, Miguel is clearly no idiot and knows far more about the situation than I do. To be in control of his own destiny again, I give him much praise and wish him the best.