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!