Novells Mono open-source group had been successful in porting Microsofts .Net Framework, but Microsoft is insisting its Avalon and Indigo intellectual property rights requires that any attempt to produce open-source versions of these two will require licensing.
Avalon is both an API (application programming interface) and a graphics architecture, while Indigo is an API and a communications subsystem.
Together, they are to form two of the key pillars for the foundation of Microsofts next generation operating system, Longhorn.
On their own, both could be useful for programmers working on other operating system.
In particular, Indigo, which is a set of .Net technologies, could be useful for building and running distributed applications.
The Mono group, led by the famous open-source programmer Miguel de Icaza, has been successful in bringing the most important parts of .Net Linux and Mac OS X developers. Since Mono is open-source, it can be moved to other operating systems as well.
Mono 1.0 is made up of a C# programming language compiler, a run-time engine for Microsofts CLI (Common Language Infrastructure) and a group of .Net-compatible class libraries that are required for running .Net applications with Mono.
These libraries include open-source versions of Microsofts ADO.Net data access and ASP.Net Web application development technologies.
With Mono, its possible to write applications on one platform, say Windows, and have them run on Linux or vice-versa.
Indeed, one company, Mainsoft Corp., uses Monos functionality as the basis for its Visual Studio .Net for Linux Developer Program and Visual MainWin for J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) Developer Edition tool, code-named Grasshopper.
With these software development tools, programmers can use the Visual Studio-based IDE (integrated development environment) to develop, debug and deploy Web applications and Web services for the Windows, Linux and Java-based platforms.
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Believing in the usefulness of bringing .Net programming beyond Microsoft operating systems, the Mono programming team had planned on releasing open-source versions of Avalon and Indigo.
Since both technologies are still very early in their development cycles, “they are not in the radar at this point,” according to the Mono Project Roadmap.
Still, work recently began on an open-source version of Indigo on Novell Inc.s sponsored MonoIndigo site.
Novell acquired the Mono project as part of its purchase of Ximian in 2003.
The project administrator, Rodrigo Mazzilli, announced the projects launch on June 3 on the main Mono mailing list.
In this note, Mazzilli said, “MonoIndigo will be a free implementation of Longhorns communication stack [code-named Indigo] on top of Mono.”
“MonoIndigo will require Mono 2.0.” This update of Mono isnt due out until 2006.
Nevertheless, “Ive also started developing some straightforward things of Indigo, like its most common attributes and classes. We plan to first implement the default BasicProfileHttpBinding, which conforms to WS-I Basic Profile 1.0 [basically HTTP-SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol)].” Thus, BasicProfileHttpBinding is the .Net equivalent to one of Web Services fundamental protocols.
A few weeks later, Microsoft told The Register that “developers planning to clone Indigo or Avalon will have to first engage in talks on licensing the companys Intellectual Property.”
A Microsoft representative confirmed that “while Microsoft is quite open to discussing with Novell the licensing of potentially applicable intellectual property, Novell has not licensed anything or even approached Microsoft on this topic.”
And, as far as Microsoft is concerned, any attempt to reverse engineer Avalon or Indigo will require a license.
“Intellectual property is something any cloner needs to think about,” said a Microsoft spokesperson.
“While a license is not required to install Avalon or Indigo on Windows or to build an application that calls them; if someone wanted to clone Avalon or Indigo from top to bottom, then they should approach Microsoft about the licensing of potentially applicable intellectual property.”
Not everyone is sure that Microsoft will be able to make this stick.
Microsoft clearly wants to maintain strict control of its APIs, its middleware, and its operating environment features.
Its not at all clear that this will be a successful endeavor for Microsoft, said Dan Kusnetzky, IDCs VP of system software.
As for Novell, the company is now claiming that its not seriously interested in porting Indigo anyway.
“Miguel and I discussed this a couple of weeks ago, and the answer [is] basically we do not have plans to implement Indigo, so this discussion is more or less moot,” said Kevan Barney, Novells senior PR manager.
That isnt because of Microsofts IP stand, though.
“The reasons we wouldnt do Indigo have to do with its usefulness (or lack thereof)—not because of IP issues,” said Barney.