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A Novell-backed project seeking to create an open source version of web services technology in future versions of Windows could hit an IP hurdle from Microsoft.

Evaluation has begun on an open source version of Indigo, the web services communications layer due in Longhorn and updates to Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

Supporters of open source Indigo, part of the long-running Mono Project, say it will spread the adoption of web services, because it enables developers to use Indigo on MacOS, Unix and Linux.

But Microsoft suggests there could be issues over licensing of its intellectual property (IP) used in Indigo - even though previous elements of Mono have been developed by the community (thanks to some nifty standards work by Microsoft).

So far, Mono has delivered an implementation of Microsoft's .NET Framework that includes ASP.NET, ADO.NET and compilers and tools for the Visual Basic .NET and Visual C# .NET languages, along with open source Unix, and Gnome libraries.

Mono has benefited from Microsoft's decision to register some key elements of the .NET Framework as standards in 2001 with the European Computer Manufacturers' Association (ECMA) and in 2003 with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

But it seems that either Longhorn falls outside of Microsoft’s definition of the .NET Framework or that Microsoft is irritated that a competitor is now supporting Mono. Novell has begun using Mono in its iFolder file sharing application for Linux, Windows and Mac workgroups.

Novell inherited Mono and project leader Miguel de Icaza with the acquisition of open source desktop specialist Ximian in 2003.

A Microsoft spokeswoman told The Register:"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."

Novell could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.

At least one ISV, specializing in cross-platform application development, is enthusiastic about the project's potential. Yaacov Cohen, Mainsoft president and chief executive, called Indigo "phenomenal", saying it would help developers build Service Oriented Architectures (SOAs). Mainsoft has worked on Mono for two years and intends to contribute resources to this latest project.

De Icaza told The Register that Indigo has most promise for middleware companies, adding that it would likely emerge in pieces through the Mono community's work on elements such as a transaction manager and queuing system.

Mainsoft, meanwhile, hopes it can encourage Windows developers to enhance Mono. Mainsoft's MainWin for J2EE Developer Edition, launched yesterday, exposes Mono's ASP.NET and ADO.NET class libraries to Visual Studio developers, enabling them to add class libraries, bug fixes and enhancements.

MainWin for J2EE Developer Edition will also help Windows developers build applications for Linux using their existing Visual Studio tools. Developer Edition is a plug-in that can re-compile Visual Basic .NET and Visual C# .NET applications to Java bite code for deployment on Linux. The suite features a Linux Virtual Machine, the PostgreSQL database and Apache Tomcat web server.

MainWin hopes it can tap some of the 22 per cent of Visual Studio developers who built applications for Linux during 2004. "Linux is becoming so popular and getting into the mainstream that VisualStudio developers want to be part of it... they don't want to be left out of the Linux phenomenon - Linux is seen as a very cool operating system," Cohen said. "We are making it very easy for Visual Studio developers." ®

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