After months of delay, Novell has finally given the first glimpse of its giant killer software - Mono - which will allow applications developed on Microsoft's .Net to run on Linux, Unix, MacOS, NetWare (and Windows).

The first public beta of Mono 1.0 is available on its website and Novell said it hopes to release a final version of the development platform by the end of June.

"We basically reached a stage where we're very near completion in terms of the Mono 1.0 release," said Erik Dasque, Novell's Mono product manager. "The goal is really to put it in the hands of users. Not necessarily end-users, but developers who want to use the technology," he said.

The beta release packages together a number of open source software components designed to comprise an open source alternative to Microsoft .Net platform. It includes a runtime environment for .Net applications, an integrated development environment, and a compiler for Microsoft's C# development language.

Mono lets Linux users run Microsoft ASP.Net and Web services applications without having to recompile their software, Dasque said.

The City of Munich, for example, is using Mono to move 300 servers that were once running an ASP.Net management application on Windows to the Linux operating system, without having to recompile the application's source code, he said. It is also in the process of migrating the city's entire network of 14,000 computers to Linux.

The Mono beta code will run on more than just Linux, however. The first beta release also runs on Windows, Mac OS and NetWare, Dasque said. Further operating system support will be included in a second beta release, scheduled for 1 June, he said.

A final version of Mono will be released by the end of June, and Novell plans to include that software in the next release of its SuSE Linux Desktop distribution, which is expected by October. This code will not be included in the upcoming release of SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9.0, expected within the next few months, but will appear in the following Enterprise Server release, Dasque said.

Novell previously had stated that Mono would be released by the end of 2003, but difficulties porting a component of the .Net runtime called the Global Assembly Cache, along with the decision to port Mono to Apple and Sun hardware, pushed the release date back, Dasque said. "We didn't feel comfortable with what we would have released at the end of December, and wanted to ship something that was more tested, more stable and more complete," he said.

Novell took over the Mono project when it acquired open source software vendor Ximian in August 2003.