Microsoft has thrown its support behind an open source initiative that will assist developers in replicating a free implementation of .Net.
Open source developer Miguel de Icaza, leader of the GNOME project and founder of Ximian, has organised a new project called Mono, which will build a free implementation of .Net for Unix systems.
The project will implement several technologies developed by Microsoft that have been submitted to the ECMA, an international software standards body.
Components of .Net include the C# compiler, a Common Language Runtime just-in-time compiler, and class libraries.
The Mono project will allow the making of both graphical user interfaces through GNOME components and the creation of server applications and web services.
The source code will be released under open source licences including the General Public Licence, or GPL, and the Lesser General Public Licence, or LGPL.
"We are taking the lead in providing an upgraded development platform that enables Unix and Linux developers to capitalise on the .Net framework. "By reusing much of the work of the GNU and GNOME projects, we can greatly accelerate the development process," de Icaza said. "We are embracing and extending."
He said the Mono developers have about a third of C# written, and since the Mono code will be open source, the software will allow developers to write ports of .Net for any operating system, including Palm and Sun Microsystems' Solaris.
Microsoft submitted the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) and the .Net underpinnings to the ECMA in an effort to make the software more widely used.
Tony Goodhew, a Microsoft product manager, said: "It is exactly the reason we went to ECMA, so the standards could be implemented royalty-free on any operating system or device."
But he did warn that creating software that implements the CLI standard would require Microsoft technology that will be released through ECMA, and that the future software may not be compatible with the licences that govern Mono and DotGNU.
DotGNU is designed to sidestep Microsoft's Passport, which holds personal information and approves passwords.
Microsoft has not, as yet, submitted the licence under which ECMA will distribute the technology.
IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky is sceptical about Microsoft's rationale and warned that its support of Mono makes it look as if the company has found a player in the open source community "to play the game of following Microsoft around and trying to do what they do".
The software community is littered with corporate corpses which tried to compete with the software giant, he said.
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