Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The .NET boomerang effect

Every once in a while somebody posts a blog or article on how the monopoly of Microsoft / Windows on the desktop can be ended, or at least be threatened. Of course I am also guilty of this, although I have said before that it will be quite hard to threaten Windows on the desktop. Keith Harrison-Broninski recently had a quite interesting discussion on his web log, and although I do disagree with him when he states that Eclipse will end the Microsoft monopoly on the desktop, his viewpoint sure made me think about other possibilities, stemming from the open source (.NET) community: Mono.

More and more Linux distributions have the open source .NET framework Mono incorporated, which means that these Linux distributions can run .NET applications that comply with the ECMA standard for .NET. Although key distributions like RedHat for instance do not include Mono (yet?), there are still signs that the Mono framework is becoming an increasingly important factor for Linux development.

I said before that one of the key barriers for a switch to a Linux desktop are the tons of applications that will only run on Windows. I also said before that a Windows emulator (such as Wine) could be helpful to run those apps, but the number of supported apps is still very limited.
As it is in Microsoft's best interest to have as much applications running on the .NET framework as soon as possible (to acceleratie the expansion of the .NET framework and runtime), many organizations will be forced to migrate their applications to this .NET framework. Which in turn makes it possible to run those applications on a Linux distribution with Mono included. So it could turn out that the rapid expansion of .NET that Microsoft is pursuing, could work as a boomerang as it opens up the possibilities of Linux (with Mono) ending Windows' desktop monopoly. And just like it is the case with Ajax, it could turn out that Microsoft started this themselves, by submitting their .NET stuff to the ECMA. Ironic again.

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