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Reader's Article: Mono as a One-way Bridge (to Windows)

Broken bridge



Summary: Jose on the Mono stick-and-carrot approach

YESTERDAY we showed that Richard Stallman does not support .NET/Mono in GNU/Linux, not by default anyway. The following is an adaptation of Jose's comment, which he wanted us to share here. It nicely relates to something that we saw a couple of weeks ago.






Free software developers build up investments in ".NET" (brain cells and applications). This grows the opportunities for Microsoft .NET applications to be created (lowers costs through eventual ports) which would add value to Windows and to Microsoft in general, contributing to Microsoft's bottom line, strength, and hold on the market.

Mono spreads through Linuxland. There are patent liabilities.

“Killer features were created for Windows, not for GNU/Linux.”Microsoft .NET companies try to move to Mono. Microsoft threatens lawsuit (stick) and offers a sweet deal with short-term savings or fully paid executive vacation trips (carrot) to move to the more capable and less risky Microsoft .NET. Company backs down from a move to the less capable, riskier, and less rewarding Mono platform.

Free software developers port to Windows (.NET/Mono are easy to port to Windows) and more Microsoft-specific hooks get added and recognised as being superior. GNU/Linux or cross-platform apps become Windows applications -- applications to keep people from being motivated to give GNU/Linux a real try. Killer features were created for Windows, not for GNU/Linux. GNU/Linux and cross-platform developers or hopefuls end up contributing significantly and/or primarily to Windows.

There are serious opportunity costs for all the time spent in ".NET" investments:

  1. .NET is not a high-performance platform when push comes to shove, so better software was not written.
  2. There are very real patent risks and associated lawsuit threats. This means a healthy bit of rewriting will very well be needed (and not resolvable by just porting to a different language/framework where most of the design is cloned over).
  3. Opportunities to improve GNU/Linux integration and performance are missed while new opportunities were created to support Microsoft. This lowers the attraction to GNU/Linux over what it could have been. The value of anything is mainly always relative to the alternatives.


Tomorrow, .NET patent trolls, who have GNU/Linux hooked, keep a steady assault on GNU/Linux as necessary (low profile perhaps), so that no major paying .NET user moves to (Mono or to) GNU/Linux.

Canonical will compete with Novell for Microsoft's attention (again, giving Microsoft the upper hand as the jesters fight for a chance to entertain the King). Short-term (maybe 5 years), they will gain something once they license for the use of Mono. Regardless of whether they survive long-term, they will have helped, along with Novell, to screw the wider GNU/Linux community (and companies like Red Hat) -- at least this appears to be where Canonical/Ubuntu is headed through their newly-expressed Mono love and adoptions. Related contributions would be getting upstream Debian to make a mess all over itself, as well.

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