Led by open source software maker Ximian, the Mono project aims to develop a version of the .net programming environment that lets developers build applications to run on Linux and Unix operating systems.
"The prospects of being able to support .net not just on Windows but on Linux or Unix holds a lot of promise for them," said Miguel de Icaza, chief technology officer at Ximian.
Intel, HP and the Mono group have agreed to use a new software licence, called the X11 licence. The new licence will allow companies to use part of the technology developed by Mono, called class libraries, in the software they sell without disclosing how they use it.
Mono's technology was previously licensed under the General Purpose Licence (GNU GPL) and a similar software licence called the Lesser General Public Licence (LGPL). Any software code protected under those two licences is freely available to developers to view, modify and distribute. However, any changes made to the code must be published and made available to the public.
A number of major software companies, such as Microsoft, oppose the GPL due to its open nature. Microsoft has continually argued that the software licence makes it difficult for a company to protect intellectual property because it forces a company to expose to competitors the blueprints of any code it uses that is licensed under the GPL.
The new licence that the Mono project will invoke says a developer can use the software code, modify it and distribute it commercially, without publishing any changes it makes. Intel and HP support the new licence because it would allow them to use the technology in their own software products without disclosing details to competitors. HP called the licensing shift a "practical move," while Intel said the switch would accelerate innovation on the Mono project.
"It allows Intel and HP to contribute to the project, which is one of the reasons we're making this change," de Icaza said. "It's something that Intel and HP feel is useful to them."
The licence changes will affect only work on the class libraries developed by the Mono project. A software compiler used in the effort, called the C# compiler, will continue to be licensed under the GPL. In addition, Mono's version of the runtime environment Common Language Runtime will continue to be used under the LGPL.