A report, as yet unconfirmed, by InternetNews claims that Attachmate, the new owner of Novell, has laid off a number of Mono developers. If so this is bad for Microsoft and for the .NET community in general.
Novell started the Mono project back in 2004, by taking over Miguel de Icaza's Ximian project. Originally it was intended as an open source implementation of C# and the core of the .NET framework; recently it has had ambitions to move into new areas bringing .NET to iPhone and Android.
Over the years de Icaza (also founder of Gnome) has become something of a leading light in open source, Mono, and many interesting things. He has driven the Mono project into areas where Microsoft didn't seem to want to go. If it is true that Attachmate sees little value in the project then the repercussions go deeper than you might expect and are not just confined to the open source community.
What is known for certain is that Attachmate is laying off 700-800 people at the Novell Provo (Utah) campus and that SUSE is being moved back to its original base in Nuremberg.
If it is true that Attachmate is down playing the Mono project then there are many open source evangelists who will welcome its demise. The reason is the well-publicised danger of using Mono when Microsoft holds patents that the project could be accused of infringing at any future point that suits Microsoft. As a result many open source projects have not only avoided using it but have conducted campaigns against including any Mono based project in Linux distributions. This explains why most of the comments on the possible downgrading of the Mono project have been along the lines of "good riddance to bad open source" - but this misses the wider view.
Microsoft's own attitude to .NET and Silverlight in particular is currently blowing hot and cold. It seems that Microsoft would like to support HTML5 and more or less sideline Silverlight. As a result Microsoft's support for Silverlight, which was supposed to be cross-platform, is weak and its support for cross-platform .NET is non-existent. Without a vigorous Mono development environment .NET programmers can't assume that they can move their code onto Linux.
Similarly the Moonlight project, open source Silverlight, is important to any Silverlight programmer who wants to be able to claim that their code is also cross-platform.
When we come to projects such as MonoTouch and Mono for Android then being able to use .NET on mobile platforms other than Windows Phone 7 is even more important.
It might not be that .NET programmers make use of Mono as a mainstream occupation but it provides a sort of safety net that allows them to think: "well if I wanted to port this to Linux, I could". Mono is now important to Microsoft as a way of ensuring that .NET is cross-platform at no cost to it.
Put simply, diminution or the loss of Mono would undermine the .NET community.
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