2011 has been a year of significant changes for the Mono community. For the most part those changes have resulted in new development momentum. Today Mono startup Xamarin is announcing Mono for Android 4, providing support for Google's latest Android release.
Mono was originally started by Novell as an open source implementation of the Microsoft .NET framework. After Novell was acquired by Attachmate, the lead mono developers, including project founder Miguel de Icaza, left to startup a company called Xamarin, which is focused on mobile development. In July, SUSE Linux partnered with Xamarin to provide support to Novell/SUSE customers.
The Mono for Android 4 release is a significant milestone for Xamarin for a number of reasons.
"The big component is that we've caught up for Google," Miguel de Icaza, CTO of Xamarin, told InternetNews.com.
De Icaza noted that Google doesn't always seed their Android development kits as fast as the actual Android releases are announced. With Android 3.x, Google didn't even make a full open source release, making it difficult for software development firms like Xamarin. In contrast De Icaza said that with Apple iOS they can often ship updates within 24 hours of an Apple iOS release.
One of the key new additions in Android 4 is that Mono developers will now be able to take advantage of improved graphics handling capabilities. De Icaza noted that Android 4 has a new rendering engine for graphics that takes advantage of GPU based textures.
"Android 4 now has most of the iPhone-like rendering capabilities," De Icaza said.
In addition to Mono for Android, Xamarin develops the MonoTouch application for building iOS apps. For developers who are building cross platform apps, Xamarin is currently working on efforts to help manage code across both platforms.
"We have started a couple of projects internally and we're trying to develop best practices," De Icaza said. "One component is shared libraries; the other component is how you manage the joint development from your IDE and how you do source control."
Mono's Second Life
As part of Xamarin, De Icaza noted that development is accelerating on Mono related efforts. One such effort is the MonoDevelop IDE, which forms part of the company's iPhone IDE. In recent months, the MonoDevelop open source project has moved to a more rapid release cycle where developers create their own development branches. Those branches are then merged with the mainline when ready, which enables new features to land faster.
"I am sick of having to wait 9 months to put new features into developers' hands," De Icaza said.
The MonoDevelop project is the first to benefit from the rapid release cycle. The next step is the core Mono project itself, which will soon move to the faster release cycle as well.
Overall, since Mono related efforts have moved to Xamarin, De Icaza said that more resources are being devoted to development.
"We're larger now than we were at Novell," De Icaza said. "We have teams that we didn't have at Novell like a full documentation team."