Qt, Trolltech and Nokia

Qt, Trolltech and Nokia
Nokia acquired Trolltech – some thoughts about that move.

The news is already some days old: Nokia acquired Trolltech. Surprising since Nokia’s focus is mainly on hardware while Trolltech focusses on software almost exclusively. Additionally, Nokia’s Open Source involvements so far most often dealt with Gnome.

Anyway, it is done now. The question remains what that means for the Free Software world, especially KDE. First of all not that much: Of course Qt development will be continued, at least for the near future. Even if the worst case would happen and Nokia would drop Qt to get rid of a competitor for their Symbian OS, Qt would automatically be released under some BSD styled licenc – and is already GPL-free. Nothing to worry there.
Additionally, it is unlikely that Nokia drops Qt because than they would not have acquired Trolltech in the first place.

However, since Nokia is specialized on mobile technology it is likely that they will use Qt to spread software among their devices. Since Qt already works cross platform the hope is that Nokia wants to use Qt to develop cross platform tools for PCs and mobile devices at the same time. This is a realistic aim since Qt already has strong cross platform abilities. In reverse this would mean that maybe some day KDE tools would become available on mobile devices without much of a hassle.
Another aim for Nokia could be that they are searching for a way to unify their software in general: parts of their software (the PC Suite) are already using Qt, and it can only be in Nokias interest to make all their applications look and behave in similar ways.

Of course, the fear that not everything works out perfectly well for the FLOSS community is there: it could be that Nokia just neglects the Linux part of Qt (or even the entire PC part) as far as possible without releasing Qt under a BSD-style licence. Additionally, buying Trolltech is just a piece of a larger puzzle: recently Nokia acquired several other companies as well. The main task for Nokia now is to bring all these pieces together to form a decent, appealing and working platform. If that strategy fails, Trolltech could fall down as well and could be sold to somewhere else.

But if Nokia gets the idea of FLOSS properly – and there are several hints that they do – it could work out pretty well. I hope that will be the case!

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11 thoughts on “Qt, Trolltech and Nokia

  1. Let’s consider this. Firefox thrives due to googles funding. However it has become dependent on googles cash infusion and you can’t really say that the code is free, everything is ok without all those funds. It will slowly cripple, and people will notice .. This brings me to my point – Qt is really tough to develop, so it’s not your average open source pet project; it really needs full time developers working on it ..

  2. I really worry about the PC part, Nokias core business is embedded devices.
    And Nokia must have plans to change Qt according to their needs, otherwhise they could have bought just a license.

  3. Nokia acquired Trolltech? Where did you get this from? Nokia just proposed an acquisition and Nokia were promised 60% of the shares but that’s still not the >90% required for a full acquisition.

  4. Daniel: I’m not sure what you mean by “can’t really say that the code is free”
    Of course I can – Free is a question of a licence, and not of project funding. Linux is free, yes, but there is big money behind. Without that money Linux development would be much, much slower and crippled.

    Markus: Actually the press release says “acquires” – and that’s were I got it from. And as it looks like Nokia will get everything in the long term.

  5. If Nokia just drops QT on he PC, worst case scenario would be that the work on it falls on KDE interested devs, since it is GPL it is a viable possibility.

  6. Markus: Nokia wants to acquire 100%. the share holders (of Trolltech) need to agree to Nokia’s plan. actually, not all share holders – >90% is needed. Nokia has the promise of 66.43% of the share holders (i.e. of all votes) to accept.

  7. I think Nokia’s idea is to pick up an awesome development platform for (at least starting out) just a couple of their cell phones. And letting phone app developers also release their apps on Windows, Mac and Linux easily – why not.

    But if you do the math on it, as Wheels has done, you can see that Nokia doesn’t have to plan Trolltech to be a core part of their mission for them to justify the purchase. Apparently Nokia makes enough money a couple of hours to buy Trolltech. Even if Trolltech remains a money-losing operation, that doesn’t matter much.

    Wheel’s blog:
    http://www.kdedevelopers.org/node/3235

  8. Nokia is more than just Mobile Phones. Don’t forget there infrastructure bussiness (now Nokia Siemens Networks) and set-top-boxes. These things have LOTS of applications on the desktop…

  9. Ian, I’ve seen that link, and I hope that these calculations are somewhat right.

    jpo, Nokia produces setup boxes? Cool, never knew that one, do you have a link to an example?

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