ExEn is my cross-platform port of XNA. It is built on top of MonoTouch (on iOS) and Mono for Android – technologies that are owned by Novell.

On November 22nd, 2010, Novell agreed to be acquired by Attachmate (press release). On the 27th of April 2011 the merger was completed (press release).

A week later, around May 2nd, Attachmate laid off what turned out to be the entire team behind MonoTouch and Mono for Android, as well as “other key Mono developers” (original news item).

This indicates to me that Attachmate/Novell no longer has the expertise or the desire to continue maintaining MonoTouch or Mono for Android. And while the Mono team kept answering support queries (including one of mine, which was blocking me from using Mono for Android, thank you!) for a while after they were laid off, I seriously doubt Attachmate/Novell will be able to continue providing adequate support for these products in the future.

Attachmate’s statement that “All technology roadmaps remain intact”, I now believe is a bald-faced lie.

In the two weeks since the layoffs, I, and the rest of the developers using MonoTouch and Mono for Android, have been eagerly awaiting a statement from Miguel. And finally that statement has come:

On May 16th (a few hours ago), Miguel de Icaza announced Xamarin (xamarin.com), a company formed by the old Mono team. They will be recreating compatible implementations of MonoTouch and Mono for Android as “.NET for iOS” and “.NET for Android“.

Because Mono and MonoDevelop (and MonoMac, for that matter) are already open-source, they only need to recreate the proprietary bits – the compiler and binding systems for each platform.

Miguel has stated in a comment on his blog post that the iOS version will be available for preview in 3 months, the Android one in 4 months.

While this is exciting news, and I have so much faith in Miguel and his team that I would preorder today, I have some concerns about Xamarin’s ability to avoid Second System Syndrome and to avoid being sued out of existence by Attachmate. On the other hand, the possibility that Xamarin will buy the existing technology from Attachmate is apparently still in the air.

In the mean time, MonoTouch is on version 4.0 and is of excellent quality and is very stable. Mono for Android on the other hand was only recently released as 1.0 and is not nearly as rock-solid as I would like.

So, how does this affect ExEn?

ExEn on iOS is already ready-to-use as part of the pre-release program. It’s fast and it’s stable. I would certainly use it!

Work on ExEn for Android was commencing just as this whole Attachmate debacle was taking place. Partially because of this, partially because of the aforementioned bug in Mono for Android, and partly because of some other projects I have going on at the moment, my internal schedule for the Android port is no longer valid. So I apologise to anyone who asked me about this schedule and then relied on that information.

My external schedule for ExEn, as much as I can manage, will remain intact. There will still be an Android port of ExEn. And if nothing else changes it will be usable and released as open source along with the rest of ExEn on June 21st.

I will be betting on the fact that Xamarin can pull off their plan, and that ExEn will port cleanly to their technology. And until I hear anything to the contrary, ExEn is still full-steam ahead!



2:37 am, Wednesday 18 May 2011

Sorry Andrew this kills it for me. All that is going to happen now is the eventual suing by Attachmate of Xamarin and we’re going to have a dead product.

Monotouch is now unfortunately one gigantic patent liability.

Andrew Russell

2:48 pm, Wednesday 18 May 2011

I think that Attachmate suing Xamarin into the ground, while certainly not impossible, is extremely unlikely.

I don’t see where patents come into it?


7:49 pm, Wednesday 18 May 2011

You’re one of the few people who thinks that way then. Mono is open source – MonoTouch is not. Xamarin is going to be accused of IP infringement if the majority of the MonoTouch userbase migrates to a new functioning tool-set. It doesn’t matter if Attachmate stops selling MonoTouch, turns off the licensing server(s) and completely abandons the project. It’s not a question of if, but when.

Attachmate it seems is working double time to get sued by their own user-base. All in all this was an extremely dumb move on their part and shows what happens when bean counters are allowed to make strategic decisions in a tech company. Here in the States if a company abandons a project you have very little recourse, but in an EU country Attachmate is liable by law for providing continued support for a period of time set forth in the license agreement.

I think your idea is solid gold. Even if the Android port were to never come around being able to have a tight/shared codebase between iOS, Windows and the Xbox is an enormously powerful thing, but I just do not see the value of MonoTouch or any future incarnation of it from here on out.

The bottom line is you have to remember Xamarin cannot do a thing with MonoTouch unless Attachmate allows them to buy/license their IP. So, three months from now we aren’t going to have anything new in terms of MonoTouch from Xamarin just continued work on the Mono platform itself.


8:46 pm, Wednesday 18 May 2011

Directly from Miguel’s blog:

henderson101 21 hours ago in reply to migueldeicaza:

“Serious question – if Attachmate now owns the Mono IP, does that mean you will commercially license the Mono LGPL elements to allow static linking for iPhone, or use another approach? I know that one of the main reasons another Mono based product for iPhone was blocked was that Novell blocked a use of the code when statically linked.”

migueldeicaza 20 hours ago in reply to henderson101:


henderson101 18 hours ago in reply to migueldeicaza:

“So, yes licensed? You are still at the mercy of your former task masters? Yikes. Good luck on that one, because if they want to hurt you guys, they can effectively end your license. Going in to direct competition with a source compatible product is ballsy – lets hope they do as we all assume and drop Mono like a lead balloon.”

I took this directly from the comment’s from Miguel’s blog here: http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2011/May-16.html

Andrew Russell

12:15 am, Thursday 19 May 2011

I think Miguel’s “yes” is an indication that the licence can be obtained.

I can think of three reasons why Attachmate might want to obliterate Xamarin; whether by denying licences, by suing them into a fine powder, or by any other means: 1) They are egotistical and perceive the formation of Xamarin as some kind of slight against them – But I haven’t seen anything to indicate that Attachmate behaves like this.

2) They intend to compete in the space and want to kill this obviously serious competition – But laying off the staff in the first place is a pretty strong indication that they don’t intend to work in this space. Or 3) They are a company in desperation – Which is clearly not the case. Remember that they just acquired Novell for 2.2billion. The market segment that MonoTouch represents is their pocket change (which is no doubt why it got trimmed).

In my opinion, the risk of Attachmate coming down hard on Xamarin is very tiny indeed.


12:19 am, Tuesday 19 July 2011