Open source .NET mimic lands on Android

Mono imitates Microsoft on Google Linux. What could go wrong?

Novell has officially released its Androidian incarnation of Mono, letting .NET-happy coders build applications for Google's mobile OS using Microsoft Visual Studio.

Appropriately enough, Novell calls its new toolset Mono for Android. It follows in the footsteps of the company's iOS incarnation of Mono, MonoTouch. "Since the introduction of MonoTouch in 2009, developers have experienced how Mono streamlines mobile application development," read a canned statement from Miguel de Icaza, Mono project founder and vice president of developer platforms at Novell.

"As a result, many asked us to build a similar tool for Android. We developed Mono for Android to give both individual developers and businesses a way of sharing their code across multiple mobile platforms, increasing efficiency and reuse of their C# and .NET expertise across the board."

Mono is an open source mimic of Microsoft's .NET platform, meant for building .NET applications that run across disparate platforms. Novell's Mono for Android includes the core Mono runtime as well as bindings for native Android APIs, a Visual Studio 2010 plug-in, and a software development kit. In short, developers can build, debug, and deploy Android applications from inside Visual Studio. Apps can be deployed to an Android simulator, an actual Android device, or the Android app Market.

Novell offers an "enterprise edition" of the toolset for a $999 one-year subscription including maintenance and updates, and for $3,999 a year you can purchase a five-developer enterprise-edition license. There's also a "professional edition", priced at $399 a year. It's meant for developers who build apps deployed directly to fewer than 100 devices. With the enterprise version, you can deploy directly to more than 100 devices. The licenses do not expire.

The rub is that if you use the product, you'll be judged by Richard Stallman. Last year, in a blog post, the Free Software Foundation and GNU project founder warned the world not to use Mono because if you do, you will eventually face the patent-wielding legal wrath of Microsoft.

"We should systematically arrange to depend on the free C# implementations as little as possible. In other words, we should discourage people from writing programs in C#," Stallman said. "Therefore, we should not include C# implementations in the default installation of GNU/Linux distributions or in their principal ways of installing GNOME, and we should distribute and recommend non-C# applications rather than comparable C# applications whenever possible." ®

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