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A few weeks ago Project Mono was announced. Led by Ximian, the Linux desktop application provider, Project Mono was initiated to develop an open source version of Microsoft's .Net development platform. This would allow open source developers to quickly and easily deliver .Net compatible software on Linux platforms.

The ongoing battle of words between Microsoft and the Open Source Movement has been well documented but this latest move demonstrated that the Open Source movement recognised the commercial and technical importance of .Net.

Everything seemed fine but now some open source developers have become concerned that Microsoft may still be able to demand licence fees, which of course goes against the principle of open source. Furthermore it appears there could be hidden patents owned by Microsoft within the .Net technologies. As patent owners Microsoft can not only demand royalty payments but also refuse to issue a licence altogether and simply demand that use of the application using the patented software be stopped immediately.

Microsoft itself is not without problems in the .Net arena. The next major release of the Windows operating system, code named Blackcomb, is to be the first pure .Net operating system. Blackcomb's release has now been delayed until 2005, two years later than was originally planned and to fill the gap an interim Windows release called Longhorn is scheduled for 2003.

While Longhorn increases the .Net functionality from the current Windows XP operating system users will have to wait until Blackcomb's arrival for a fully featured and highly integrated operating system that will sit at the heart of .Net.

Microsoft claim to be still on course with the .Net schedule and some of the first .Net products, focusing on personal context services, are expected to be seen later this year. It is the need to deliver .Net products sooner rather than later that Microsoft claims is the main cause of the delay. But many are questioning whether it is the still unfinished anti-trust battle and the release of Windows XP that has prompted the pause in events.

Windows XP, due to be released on the 25th October, integrates instant messaging, video streaming and Internet telephony technologies closely with the operating system. It is exactly this type of close integration that led to the original anti-trust suit and Microsoft may be wary of testing those waters again so soon. Whatever the reason, Microsoft could be spending more time in court both as the accused or the defendant.

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