New Novell tool opens iPhone to .Net developers

MonoTouch lets .Net developers build apps that meet Apple's requirements

A new developer tool from Novell may see more iPhone applications for enterprise users.

Novell's MonoTouch software development kit lets developers write an application using .Net and then produces a native iPhone-compatible application. "It enables .Net developers to target the iPhone," says Joseph Hill, product manager for Mono at Novell.

Currently, developers have to use Objective-C, a language that is not otherwise widely used, to build applications that comply with Apple's requirements for the iPhone. Al Hilwa, an analyst at IDC, says "What this does is bring a different kind of developer who might have been trying to figure out how to leverage the iPhone but didn't have the skills or didn't want to engage in a unique development environment".

Since .Net is widely used in the enterprise and by enterprise application developers, MonoTouch could encourage more iPhone programs geared toward business users.

The tool includes software that looks similar to Visual Studio, which .Net developers are familiar with and runs on the Mac. "That will enable them to get the experience they should be comfortable with and integrates into the tool chain we've built," Novell's Hill says.

Novell has seen a lot of interest in this type of tool from enterprise developers who would like to extend applications to workers with iPhones but who have found that the investment in the skills to develop for the iPhone has been too high, he says.

But since a growing number of enterprises don't have many in-house development resources, it's more likely that ISVs (independent software vendors) will be interested in using MonoTouch, Hilwa says. "ISVs who are built around Mono or .Net will find it more interesting because they worry a lot about the cost of development or maintenance," he says. "Some haven't jumped into the iPhone fray and might now."

Novell didn't work with Apple to develop the product but doesn't anticipate that the company will have any issue with it, Hill says. Hilwa also expects the iPhone maker won't have a problem with MonoTouch but "Apple is unpredictable" so it's uncertain, he says.

Beyond the enterprise, game developers may be even more interested in MonoTouch, Hilwa says. Mono, the Novell tool that lets developers write applications that can run across multiple platforms, is already fairly popular in the gaming market, he says. "These people will find it appealing to go to the iPhone with the same code base," he says.

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