When the Free Software Foundation announced its .Net development-platform-on-Unix project, called Mono, earlier this month, there were a whole lot of question marks about how Microsoft would let its ideas and code be used by competitors.
Microsoft's openness to efforts such as Mono is a key issue because Microsoft's own Unix version of .Net is only for academic and personal use, according to its licensing terms. If commercial companies are going to be able to use C# or .Net classes on non-Windows platforms, Mono will be needed.
I was encouraged to hear on the record from Microsoft that licensing issues should not be a holdup for Mono. "We said, royalty-free, you can do whatever you need to do to implement this spec," said Microsoft's David Stutz, group program manager for the Shared Source CLI Implementation, in Redmond, Wash. Specifically, referring to Mono, Stutz continued, "They will have the same access to that IP as everyone else has. It should be smooth sailing."
Moreover, Stutz said Microsoft will be liberal in how others can learn from Microsoft's shared-source .Net platform, called the Common Language Infrastructure, or CLI.
"We are very serious about wanting to see lots of different CLI implementations, commercial implementations. People who want to implement commercial versions of the CLI should be able to use [the shared source code] as a guide," Stutz said. "While we're not saying go and use this source code, you will not be tainted by going and looking at this source code."