Mono Release Aimed at Android Tablets

Developers can now use C# to build apps for the Kindle Fire, Motorola Zoom and other Android-based devices.

C# developers now have a new mobile platform to develop for.

Many Microsoft-focused programmers that don't want to learn Object C and Java have been using Mono products to write code for the iPhone and Android smartphones. Now they can stay in their native tongue and build software for the growing Android-based tablet market as well.

Xamarin, the startup launched earlier this year to provide commercial support for the Mono Project, this week released Mono for Android 4.0, a set of tools designed to allow developers to build C# apps that run on the latest version of Google's operating system. The company is billing it as its first to target Android tablet devices, including the Kindle Fire, Motorola Zoom and the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

"With this release we finally caught up with Google," Xamarin co-founder Miguel de Icaza told "Our iOS product (MonoTouch) has always been very up-to-date. We've always released out product within 24 hours of an Apple release. With Android it's been a bit trickier. We're still not at the 24-hour window, but we're getting there."

Mono is an open source implementation of the .NET Framework based on the C# programming language and the Common Language Runtime (CLR). Xamarin's Mono tools make it possible for .NET developers to use their existing code, libraries, tools, and C# skills to build mobile apps for devices running Apple's iOS and Google's Android. Mono for Android 4.0 provides access to all the new features of the Google OS, code named "Ice Cream Sandwich." It includes a plugin for Visual Studio, and it comes with a new, incremental build technology designed to reduce debugging and development cycles.

"Our thinking has evolved since we first started working on Mono many years ago with the goal of bringing Windows applications to Linux," de Icaza said. "We now believe that the value of .NET is really in the language and the core library, and we're projecting the native features of the platform into C#."

"C# brings a lot to the table," de Icaza added. "It's a very evolved language that brings a lot of things that Objective C and Java do not have. There have been five waves of C# releases. They were ahead of Java in the use of generics. Then they incorporated language integrated queries. The fourth wave provided a generic bridge for C# to communicate with un-typed languages. And C# now has first-class support for asynchronous programming, which is very important in the mobile space, where you want to make all your interactions with network services, or slow services, asynchronous."

De Icaza is the originator of the Mono Project, an open-source implementation of the .NET Framework based on C# and the Common Language Runtime (CLR). In 1999 he and Nat Friedman founded a company called Ximian, originally to provide Linux and Unix desktop apps based on the GNOME platform. That company became a driving force behind Mono, and it was acquired by Novell in 2003.

Under Novell, the Mono team created MonoTouch and Mono for Android. Earlier this year, Attachmate acquired Novell and then laid off virtually all members of the company's Mono team, but later partnered with Xamarin to grants the startup a broad, perpetual license to all intellectual property covering Mono, MonoTouch, Mono for Android and Mono Tools for Visual Studio.

"We've made C# the lingua franca that runs on all three major phone platforms," de Icaza said, "Windows Phone 7, iOS and Android. But we don't try to provide a one-size-fits-all approach to user interface development. Our approach instead has been to surface what is unique about each platform. And we don't claim that we're going to give you write-once-run-anywhere, but you'll be able to reduce a lot of your business logic."

The new version Mono for Android is available for download now. A free trial copy is available for download here. Tutorials for the product are available here.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].

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