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Mono project gets new home in ‘Xamarin’ start-up

May 17, 2011 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Following Attachmate's acquisition of Novell, the entire staff of the Novell-sponsored Mono project team was laid off. Now, Mono project leader Miguel de Icaza has launched a new company called Xamarin, which plans to continue supporting the open source .NET clone Mono and the Silverlight mimic Moonlight, while pushing related development on iOS and Android platforms.

In November, Attachmate announced its intention to acquire Novell for $2.2 billion. Shortly after completing the acquisition earlier this month, the company began letting Mono developers go. The dismissals were part of a larger round of layoffs at Novell, whose SUSE Linux operations were shunted off to Nuremberg, Germany as part of a reorganization.

Now Miguel de Icaza (pictured), founder of the Mono Project, and co-founder of the GNOME project, has launched a new venture called Xamarin. The company will develop products based on the open source .NET clone Mono, including the latest Mono for Android application.

In a May 16 blog post, de Icaza announced the formation of the Xamarin startup and mentioned some of the initial efforts the company will undertake. Mono is a free and open source project — formerly sponsored by Novell and prior to that by Ximian — that develops an Ecma standard-compliant .NET-compatible set of tools, including a C# compiler and a Common Language Runtime.

The stated purpose of Mono is not only to be able to run Microsoft .NET applications cross-platform, but also to bring better development tools to Linux developers. Although Mono has become an important asset to enterprise open source developers, many in the open source community are wary of using the software, due to fears that its .NET foundation could lead to Microsoft patent issues.

Spin-off planned a year ago

According to de Icaza in his blog entry, the new company was not simply a quick response to the layoffs by Attachmate. "We have been trying to spin Mono off from Novell for more than a year now," he writes. "Everyone agreed that Mono would have a brighter future as an independent company, so a plan was prepared last year."

The spin-off fizzled, however, and on May 2, Mono's Canadian and American teams were laid off, with layoffs in Europe, Brazil, and Japan following a few days later, explains de Icaza. The layoffs are said to have included all MonoTouch and MonoDroid engineers, as well as other key Mono developers.

"Although Attachmate allowed us to go home that day, we opted to provide technical support to our users until our last day at Novell, which was Friday last week," writes de Icaza. "We were clearly bummed out by this development, and had no desire to quit, especially with all the great progress in this last year. So, with a heavy dose of motivation from my music teacher, we hatched a plan."

According to de Icaza, the plan includes angel funding, as well as "a couple of engineering contracts that will help us stay together as a team while we ship our revenue-generating products."

Android and iOS projects to continue

Xamarin will be building a new commercial .NET offering for Android and iOS, writes de Icaza. The company will also continue to contribute, maintain, and develop Mono and Moonlight — a Microsoft Silverlight multimedia clone — under open source license. Xamarin will also explore Moonlight opportunities in the mobile space and the Mac App Store, adds de Icaza.

"We believe strongly in splitting the presentation layer from the business logic in your application and supporting both your back-end needs with C# on the server, the client or mobile devices, and giving you the tools to use .NET languages in every desktop and mobile client," writes de Icaza.

Xamarin will first deliver the iPhone stack, followed by the Android stack, and then the Moonlight ports to both platforms. The new versions of .NET for the iPhone and Android will be source-compatible with MonoTouch and Mono for Android, and will similarly be commercial products built on top of Mono, adds de Icaza.

Xamarin also will provide support and custom development for Mono. "Our plan is to maximize the pleasure that developers derive from using Mono and .NET languages on their favorite platforms," he concludes.

The Xamarin team is asking for developer input via a survey to determine what platforms and features to address next.

According to a story posted on May 9 from Utah-based Deseret News, layoffs at Novell were estimated to be about 800 out of the 6,000-some employees that were working at the company at the time of the acquisition. Attachmate, however, would not confirm the numbers.

Darryl K. Taft is a writer for eWEEK.

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