Far be it for us to tell Microsoft how to run its business. That said: Microsoft should get behind the Mono project and help nurture it. The goodwill with developers (both open-source and Microsoft-centric) will ultimately be good for Microsoft.

If there’s one thing Microsoft knows for certain, it’s that if you have the developers on your side, and a huge stockpile of applications to run on your platform, you win. It’s why Microsoft won the operating-system wars for the desktop and the server. It’s why Apple grabbed the big early lead in the mobile platform war with the iPhone. Developers, that’s where it’s at.

While Miguel de Icaza was running the Mono project out of Novell, Microsoft took a hands-off approach: It didn’t actively support the project, but it didn’t overtly try to kill it either. (Some speculate Microsoft’s purchase of Novell patents during the sale to Attachmate may have influenced Attachmate’s decision to fire the Mono team… but for now, that is merely speculation.)

Support of the Mono Project may seem counterintuitive for Microsoft; after all, isn’t every Linux server running .NET applications under Mono a lost sales opportunity for Windows Server? While that’s true, there’s more to Mono than merely a free platform for running the Common Language Runtime.

After all, every application written to run on a Mono implementation was written using Microsoft’s specifications for .NET and the CLR, including its language. That means developers aren’t using competing languages and frameworks.

For example, Mono also serves as a native development platform for iOS and Android applications. From a developer perspective, being able to use Visual Studio for .NET to create applications for all those devices is most compelling. Without Mono, there is no single native development platform for those operating systems.

As Microsoft Regional Director Patrick Hynds pointed out in an e-mail to SD Times, “If the world builds their apps for mobile devices using .NET languages and tools, then I think that gives Microsoft a huge advantage. And if they don’t, then maybe someone will build an Objective C converter that makes it super easy to write your Objective C iPhone app and port it with a click to Android and Windows/Windows Phone. If that happens, then Microsoft will have missed the boat and its tools division will suffer.”

As de Icaza proved at Novell, Mono is going to continue on. If Microsoft offers guidance and support so the implementation is done well, developers win and Microsoft wins. We won’t blather on here about a moral high ground for open source; that’s not Microsoft’s game. But Microsoft support for Mono will be good for Microsoft, and so we call on them to get behind the project.

Where have the years gone?
Some of the names may be very familiar, the sorts of companies that you read about in “The New York Times” or “The Wall Street Journal”: IBM. Microsoft. Google. Apple. Hewlett-Packard. Motorola. Amazon.

Others are well known within our industry, but are unlikely to be household names to the general public: Atlassian. Django. Mashery. Mu Dynamics. WSO2.

Big or small, Fortune 5000 or Fortune 50, open-source or commercial, all of the companies, organizations and projects named to the 2011 SD Times 100 (see p. 44) have made a difference through innovation and leadership. They’ve advanced the art of software development, and we hope will continue doing so.

Not every name on the SD Times 100 stays there, of course. The list looks odd without Sun Microsystems, which was purchased by Oracle. And several of the names of that list didn’t even exist when the SD Times 100 begin in 2003 (looking back at the leaders/innovators of 2002).

Each year, the SD Times 100 represents a walk down memory lane. Remember some of these oldies from the inaugural awards? We do… but suspect some of our younger readers may never have even heard of these organizations, or have any idea what they contributed to our industry.

BEA Systems
Borland Software
Crystal Decisions
Mercury Interactive
Popkin Software
Pragma Systems
Rational Software
Select Business Solutions
Thought Inc.
United Linux
Wily Technology

Okay, that’s enough ancient history—it’s time to look forward. We hope you enjoy this year’s SD Times 100.