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Apple Treats Mono Like It Treats Flash; GNU/Linux Should Too

Miguel de Icaza



Summary: Apple is not interested in 'foreign' APIs entering its environment, so why do GNOME-based distributions of GNU/Linux tolerate Mono, which squarely corresponds to Microsoft's APIs and makes Microsoft stronger?

EARLIER this week we wrote about MonoTouch, namely about it being blocked by Apple [1, 2, 3]. MonoTouch brings Mono to Apple products and in turn it can also bring Moonlight, which would only contribute to proprietary software plug-ins like Silver Lie and Adobe Flash (which Apple also blocks). From Apple's point of view, it is doing the right thing and we cannot complain. "Whining to Apple" is "an exercise in futility," says this new article on the subject.



Apple has set the developer guidelines in a way that benefits them and doesn’t care whether Novell is worried about the standing of MonoTouch or not. You either believe, or even just agree to the terms of the Apple vision or you don’t Apple and Jobs couldn’t careless even if that means that like Adobe and possibly Novell your company has to take a big hit.


One of the Mono boosters [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] has just published an article where he quotes Novell's product manager for MonoTouch. He says that "Novell is reaching out to Apple for clarification on its intentions, and it will advocate for the license agreement to be amended prior to the release of Apple's iPhone 4.0 SDK this summer." He also writes:

Third parties, including Adobe and Novell, have released tools that translate code for execution on the iPhone. Adobe produces the Flash-to-iPhone cross-compiler, and Novell develops MonoTouch, a tool that brings .NET development to the iPhone.


Microsoft boosters like Larry O’Brien are also quoted in this article (Microsoft boosters love Mono) and another longtime booster, Gavin Clarke, has published his rant too (characterising Apple's actions as an attack on Free software). They basically use this as an opportunity to denounce Apple, which is a risk to their professional livelihood because they depend on Microsoft's performance.

The coverage from IDG was reasonable and writing on behalf of Ars Technica -- surprisingly enough -- is Microsoft's booster Peter Bright, who turns this against Apple (not surprisingly). He too characterises it as an attack on Free software, Android to be precise (Novell whines over Monotouch and Clarke talks about SugarCRM).

Things just got a whole lot more restrictive for iPhone developers. What this change means is that developers can no longer use software like Novell's MonoTouch, Unity3D, or Ansca's Corona to develop iPhone applications, and tools like Appcelerator's Titanium and PhoneGap are looking questionable. MonoTouch, Unity3D, and Corona allow developers to use the C# language and Lua scripting, respectively, to write iPhone applications. Titanium and PhoneGap allow application development using JavaScript and HTML; because they use WebKit behind the scenes to run that JavaScript, they might be OK.


Over at BetaNews, a Windows guru spoke to Microsoft's MVP who is the founder of the Mono project. Miguel de Icaza will go ahead regardless of Apple's terms. [via]

A January 2009 Ars Technica article by Ryan Paul explains how Mono had been getting past Apple's rules and regulations up to now: For iPhone, it uses a concept called ahead-of-time compilation, which involves pre-compiling the assemblies in such a way that the Mono platform can convert them into native code, before a JIT compiler would have done the equivalent.


Why is Novell so desperate to put .NET on Apple's products? Is that part of Novell's commitment to Microsoft? Maybe an implicit one (that it should spread Microsoft's APIs and GPL-violating kernel patches for proprietary software [1, 2, 3])?

SJVN argues that Adobe might be preparing to sue Apple.

Adobe, the king of Internet video with 95% Web browser market penetration, is not one bit happy about being locked out of Apple's lucrative mobile device market. Novell's MonoTouch group is "reaching out to Apple for clarification on their intention, and believe there is plenty of room for course-correction prior to the final release of the 4.0 SDK." Adobe, which doesn't want to let go of its hold on Internet-based video, isn't anything like as optimistic.


According to this article from CNET, to Novell it's about "Microsoft's C# programming language and associated .Net technology."

But Gruber couldn't figure a way out of it for Adobe and sees implications for a range of programming tools, many of them designed to let programmers target different devices with the same project. Another one is Novell's MonoTouch, which lets programmer's using Microsoft's C# programming language and associated .Net technology write for the iPhone and iPad.


Would "associated .Net technology" include something like Silver Lie? Either way, Apple would be better off denying it all and blocking API intrusions. Given that some GNU/Linux sites already promote Mono-dependent software which is not safe for use by non-Novell customers, distribution makers should do the same as Apple by denying Mono like they already deny Flash (by default). Here we have another new example of Mono traps being promoted for Ubuntu, with similar Mono problems (developed by Canonical staff) being promoted for all GNU/Linux distributions. This 'cross-pollination' with Microsoft is a recipe for disaster and Canonical's appreciation for Novell software gives us reasons for concern. A lot of Novell software is fee software, not Free software.

"'Free software' is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of 'free' as in 'free speech,' not as in 'free beer'."

--Richard Stallman



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