Digia to sell Qt commercial licences, Nokia continues commitment

Despite more than one headline breaking this week suggesting that Nokia is attempting to shed responsibility for the Qt cross platform application development framework, it appears that this is far from the truth. After Nokia announced plans for Digia Plc. to acquire the Qt commercial licensing and services business, the business relationship for around 3500 Qt desktop and embedded customer companies with Qt commercial licenses will transfer from Nokia to Digia.

While Nokia has been accused of “abdicating its responsibilities” and “washing its hands” of Qt, it appears that the company has in fact not acted in this way. After seeking a partner to take on the commercial business since 2010, Digia was selected and the transaction is expected to close by the end of March 2011, at which point Nokia will continue to invest in future development of Qt for its own core objectives, but also the overall benefit of all users, both commercial and LGPL.

The move arguably has some sense to it. Nokia has never had a large interest in selling software licenses, but undertook this role with Qt as part of continuing the operations of the company it acquired (Trolltech ASA) in 2008.

Under the arrangement with Digia, Nokia gets to focus on the pieces of Qt that are relevant to its own core business, while the user base of paying customers, mainly desktop and embedded specialists, will get specialised attention, service and even product improvements from a company with software license sales at the core of its interests.

Digia is expected to invest heavily in R&D to provide items specifically requested by commercial customers, so in essence this news is positive for the desktop and embedded customers. Innovation for both platforms played second fiddle to mobile-specific changes, fixes and improvements under Nokia rule. These changes will be merged into Qt, with Nokia continuing the lion’s share of the development work.

Speaking exclusively to Business Computing World, Qt’s David Stone underlined the fact that Nokia and Digia already have a close relationship and will continue to cooperate on software development processes that will ultimately improve the Qt source code, as well as in help to provide the best possible framework for the community of Qt mobile and desktop/embedded developers.

Stone also underlined the fact that the agreement with Helsinki-based Digia will see the company be responsible for issuing all Qt Commercial software licenses and for providing dedicated services and support to licensees. To achieve a smooth transition during this process, Nokia’s Qt technical support team will support and work closely with Digia for a period of around a year with work beginning immediately.

Writing on the official Qt blog, Sebastian Nyström who is vice president, head of MeeGo, Qt and Webkit at Nokia has said that, “Qt continues to be an important technology for Nokia and it is critical that Qt’s growth and success can continue. While Nokia will continue to invest in developing Qt as a cross-platform framework for mobile, desktop and embedded segments, focusing on open source development and expansion, we wanted a partner who can drive the commercial licensing and services business around Qt. Digia has proven, in-depth Qt expertise, operational excellence and a keen interest in growing and improving the overall Qt community and so well positioned to expand the Qt Commercial licensing and services business.”

Adrian Bridgwater a freelance journalist specialising in cross platform software application development, software engineering and project management. Adrian has worked as a freelance technology journalist for nearly two decades. His work has been published in various international publications including the Wall Street Journal, CNET.com, The Register, ComputerWeekly.com, BBC World Service magazines, eWeek Europe, Imagine's Web Designer magazine, Linux User and Developer, Silicon.com, the British Computer Society, Microscope, Heise’s “The H” online, the UAE’s Khaleej Times & Maktoob Business & ITP.net and SYS-CON’s Web Developer Journal and PowerBuilder Developer Journal. He has worked as technology editor for international travel & retail magazines and also produced annual technology industry reviews for UK-based publishers ISC. He is also a published travel and food writer for the BBC and has lived and worked abroad for 10 years in Tanzania, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Italy and the United States.