JAN
28
2008

Nokia Acquiring Trolltech

Today, Nokia and Trolltech announced that Nokia will be purchasing Trolltech. Nokia will continue with Qt's dual license model, which was updated to GPL 3 only last week. In an open letter to KDE, the chief Trolls and Nokia VP asked for ideas and comments on improving their relationship with the open source community. Nokia will be applying to become a patron of KDE e.V. and the FreeQt foundation is being maintained to guarantee the continued freedom of the toolkit KDE depends upon. This change should help ensure both the continued longevity of Qt and KDE as well as give the platform a boost in industry, particularly in the consumer electronics industry.

Comments

Some question if FreeQt can work depending on what Nokia does.
This guy suggests (http://insanecoding.blogspot.com/2008/01/say-goodbye-to-former-qt-and-he...) that FreeQt won't do anything if the open source version becomes Windows only.

Personally, I think Nokia bought Trolltech to prevent other companies from using QTopia on their phones, and really don't care about advancing Qt at all. They will probably also inevitably end up doing something to hurt us.


By Nach at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

well, yes, that blog is what you get when a developer comments on legal issues and does so before having all the facts in hand. it's a completely bogus analysis.

as for motivation, it may make more sense to consider the benefits to Nokia rather than the detriments to others. why? because that's what usually motivates such companies.

it's business basics.


By Aaron Seigo at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

Which facts was he missing?

Well yeah, perhaps Nokia may want to use QTopia on their phones too, although they're currently not doing that. But in the process, it's probably good for their business to be the only one on the block with a stellar UI.

And heck, now that KDE Games have gone SVG, they'd look nice on their new phones :)


By Nach at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

There's the fact Google's Android is a threat to Nokia, and so it makes sense for Nokia to embrace a similarly open source platform. Besides, phones are quickly becoming OS's, and OS/software vendors like Microsoft are quickly becoming phone developers. There are plenty of reasons for them to want to pickup things like Qt/KDE (with all their accomplishments, cross-platform support, nicer-(and, importantly, LIGHTER)-than-vista UI, etc.

Believe me, I've seen companies shoot themselves and their products in the foot enough to consider it a crime against the advancement of humanity, but it could be a good thing too. Time -- and only time -- will tell.


By Lee at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

Personal question, if I may: will you and e.g. David keep your jobs?


By anon at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

Of course they will. The open letter to the community that Lars points to in his blog explains the situation.
In short Trolltech commitment to KDE stays completely unchanged. Look at it from the very simple perspective: the amount of resources which Trolltech has at their disposal increases a lot due to the merger and that's something to be excited about.


By Zack Rusin at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

...for the time being.

We don't know what Nokia will feel like in a few years.

I'm not happy about this. It's one thing to cooperate with a small company composed of engineers, programmers, hackers and software lovers, and a completely different thing to have the very heart of your desktop environment controlled by a multinational behemoth involved with software, telecommunications and a million other things, which started off as a cable manufacturer.

I had a far easier time trusting Trolltech than I do trusting Nokia. While things will probably stay pretty much the same in the short term (or even improve due to new funds), in the long run I'm not sure Nokia will care enough about Free Software or KDE to stop them from hurting the community if they deem it profitable.

I'm not doing this to spread the FUD, I'm simply uneasy about this.


By KOffice fan at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

well, I might add that small companies "composed of engineers, programmers, hackers and software lovers" usually aren't around for long. Those companies tend to go out of business quickly or become acquired by a "multinational behemoth". If they're lucky.

But still, I think you're mostly correct about the implications for KDE. We're no longer close to the Qt business model. KDE had a good leverage versus Trolltech because they knew well to thrive on KDEs success on the desktop. "Look how fancy things are done with our product". I wonder if Nokia cares so much...

Also I'm wondering whether the possibility exists of Nokia BSD'ing (or LGPL'ing) Qt, and whether this was good or bad. Clearly they don't need the turnover Trolltech achieves through Qt license sales.


By matze at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

Well, companies have the obligation to bring revenues to their share holders. Both big and small companies. So I don't understand this romantic view of small company composed of engineers and SW lovers... if you don't want a company to control your desktop (I don't see how Nokia could do so), use a Desktop that is not based on any technology owned by any company (I don't know if that is the case with Gnome).

Nokia started by doing paper and rubber boots. I don't think it is easy to find a company that reinvent itself as Nokia does. I just think this is positive, specially when thinking about the resources and the market penetration nokia has.


By José Alarcón at Fri, 2008/02/01 - 6:00am

so let's consider the facts:

1.) Nokia hat a net profit of 2.8 billion euros in q4 2007; TT isn't profitable at this point (tho the turnover increases).

2.) Trolltech was a device-independent embedded software vendor iirc selling to Motorola as well.

(1) was clearly not the reason for the acquisition, (2) probably much more so. what will probably happen is that TT gets aligned with the Nokia business operations and then everything which is not up to the efficiency threshold (sales people might be affected) will get cut away.

this way, Nokia has an in-hour alternative to Symbian, keeps Motorola from benefitting from TT (or acquiring the company themselves) and a nice staff of engineers who can be assigned to whatever software development they do inhouse. and that's prolly going to be quite a bit in the future (since the profit margins with hardware are much much smaller than with software).

16NOK per share is pretty much (i'd need to look it up) the issue price btw, it's not like you're gonna make big money with that.


By anony-mouse at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

This is a good observation. Most companies do not like to use a product developed by a competitor. This means that unless Nokia changes the license (to permit free commercial development by its competitors), Qt is quite unlikely to be used by other phone manufacturers.


By Sage at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

"Qt is quite unlikely to be used by other phone manufacturers"

I can't think of any instance where getting your competitors to use your platform is not a good thing.


By segedunum at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

And what about using your competitors platform?


By John Tapsell at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

I see plenty of Microsoft's competitors using Windows.


By segedunum at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

You miss the point - it's not in the interests of other manufacturers to use Nokia's toolkit. Simple example: what if Ericsson needs a change to Qt to work on its new device? They have to go rely on their competitor to make the change to help them, which of course Nokia has every motivation not to do - and, on top of that, risk pre-notifying their competitor of their new device's feature in order to get the change, giving up a major competitive advantage (first to market). Smart management just does not put themselves in that position.


By Sage at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

One word: Android.


By A KDE advocate at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

"They have to go rely on their competitor to make the change to help them"

Why?


By anon at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

In the hypothetical: assuming Ericsson does not want to open source its drivers and all its software, it has to use the commercial version of Qt / Qtopia, which means it can't make its own changes, which means it has to ask Nokia to make the changes for it.


By Sage at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

> it has to use the commercial version of Qt / Qtopia, which means it can't make its own changes

This is a wrong implication. A Trolltech customer, i.e. someone who has bought a commercial licence, still gets the Qt code and is allowed to change it and distribute alongside their applications.


By Kevin Krammer at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

Since I don't have (and Trolltech for some reason does not publish) their commercial license I cannot confirm your summary or whether it would be adequate. One inadequacy, e.g., is that this license might change, including that the license fees might go up dramatically or this right you refer to to make changes goes away. And as I have noted before, there is no secondary market in Qt licenses (e.g., buying an off-the-shelf kit at Best Buy), which enables Nokia to price discriminate (charge some customers more than others, or plain refuse to license to someone). All very unattractive features when deciding on the platform for a hardware device.

Can you post your Qt Commercial License somewhere and provide a link?


By Sage at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

Section 6 of my QTopia license states:

(a) modity the licensed Software as limited by section 10 below.

Section 10 seems to deal only with trolltech's rights to audit out process to ensure we have the correct licenses, but it does have the following statement: Licensee does not implicitly grant Trolltech any form of license agreement.

I won't post the full agreement, it is likely protected by copyright laws. I'm pretty sure my company doesn't intend to modify QT, so I assume the above is generic terms they grant to everyone.

I can't tell you how/if Nokia will change those terms.


By Hank Miller at Tue, 2008/01/29 - 6:00am

"You miss the point - it's not in the interests of other manufacturers to use Nokia's toolkit. Simple example: what if Ericsson needs a change to Qt to work on its new device? They have to go rely on their competitor to make the change to help them"

For starters, Qt is an open source platform, and secondly, I see few of Microsoft's competitors having a problem with Windows - and that's even worse.


By segedunum at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

Qt may be open source but we are speaking about the commercial license.

As to Microsoft, at this point there is little choice for most people, but it's not at all analogous. A better analogy: Intel relying on AMD to write its microcode for its processors.


By Sage at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

"Qt may be open source but we are speaking about the commercial license."

So what? What is in Qt is what is in Qt. The open source version has the enterprise source code, and if you're a customer then you get the Qt source code as well.

"As to Microsoft, at this point there is little choice for most people, but it's not at all analogous."

Yes it is - certainly from what you're implying. These days Microsoft's competitors have no choice but to write software for Microsoft's platform and with their development tools, which means that Microsoft is first to market with everything. With Qt, that just isn't the case. If someone is really worried then they can use Qt for some things and not for others.

"A better analogy: Intel relying on AMD to write its microcode for its processors."

As long as they can get control over that microcode and write their own then it's not a problem and a pretty poor example.


By segedunum at Tue, 2008/01/29 - 6:00am

What?

LG Electronics
“We are anticipating the unique features and functionalities that the S60 platform will bring to our product portfolio and look forward to working in the S60 community. Our target is to build ubiquitous mobile devices that will best serve our customers. S60 on top of the Symbian OS will provide us with a compatible platform for our smartphones throughout our CDMA, GSM/GPRS, and WCDMA portfolio.” — Yong E. Shin, Vice President, UMTS Handset Laboratory, LG Electronics

Read more about LG at www.s60.com
Lenovo
“The S60 platform, as an open and industry interoperable platform, best supports our innovations and product differentiation. It will provide Lenovo with one of the most optimal software platforms in the very competitive Chinese handset market.”
— George He, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Lenovo

Read more about Lenovo at www.s60.com
Lenovo developer Web site
Samsung
“S60 is an ideal software platform for the advanced smartphones.”
— ByungDuck Cho, Senior Vice President, Mobile Communications R & D Team, Samsung Electronics

Read more about Samsung at www.s60.com


By José Alarcón at Fri, 2008/02/01 - 6:00am

You're right: at IPO the price was fixed at NOK16/share. Which means that Nokia gets to acquire them at a bargain price now. And still its a generous offer, the shares were publicly traded at around NOK8 before Nokias stepped up.


By matze at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

>> TT isn't profitable at this point (tho the turnover increases).

What? TT is making a tidy profit. Not 2.8billion worth, but a decent amount.


By Leo S at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

i've been following TT since their IPO and they haven't had a single financial report which stated that they were profitable. their turnover increased well (which is usually what counts) but still.

you can see it yourself in the q3 2007 report at

http://dist.trolltech.com/pdf/Q3finalreport2007.pdf

- 'The loss before tax was NOK 4.6 million in the third quarter 2007'
- 'For the first nine months of 2007, the loss before tax was NOK 26.1 million and the net loss after tax NOK 31.0 million'

i think it's crystal clear that this is a purely strategic acquisition and whoever says that TT can just keep going on as they always did except that they have a lot more resources plainly doesn't understand how businesses work at this scale (thinking about the comment of 'zack rusin').

TT is interesting because of a nice engineering division but after the deal it's entirely up to Nokia what those people are working on. if Nokia decides that the manpower is more useful to them when working on embedded stuff instead of KDE stuff, then that's the last word.

some people never understand when it's time to drop the romantic hacker mentality and realize what it means to be working for (and adjusting to the preferences of) a highly profitable and very tough global enterprise like Nokia.


By anony-mouse at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

I might be mistaken, but I vaguely recall TT being profitable pre-IPO. It certainly wouldn't be surprising to see a company that went public push for expansion and growth over immediate profits, given the infusion of capital the IPO produces..


By SadEagle at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

yes, acquisitions, restructurings and hiring is a bitch to the bottom line when using GAAP methods.


By Aaron Seigo at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

Huh. You're right. What the heck. I wonder why I thought that they were making a profit. That's... disturbing. When they were privately owned they must have made money, and lately they seem to be spending more and more, so I assumed they were in decent shape.


By Leo S at Tue, 2008/01/29 - 6:00am

The stock exchange Q3 report also says: Positive EBITDA[1] of NOK 0.3 million. Sales has increased in the period, the report says. This shows that Trolltech is heading for profitability after a period of heavy investment.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EBITDA

When it comes to your "romantic hacker mentality" theory, science says something else. For years now researchers has studied the phenomena of free, libre and open source software. One such study is the Free/Libre and Open Source Software: Survey and Study. The study reports:

Learn and develop new skills, and share knowledge and skills are major motivations for free software developers. The study[2] shows that the free software community is a rather young and predominantly male community with a strong professional background in the IT sector and a high educational level.

2. http://www.infonomics.nl/FLOSS/report/Final4.htm

Trolltech's relation to KDE are well known. At the KDE 4 launch Haavard Nord presented how the relationship was from Trolltech's part:

3. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2866967248993401461

Finally, Nokia embraces open source technology and will take further the open source development culture found in Trolltech. FreeQt foundation is being maintained to guarantee the continued freedom of the toolkit KDE depends upon. Chief Trolls and Nokia VP are now asking for ideas and comments on improving their relationship with the open source community.


By Knut Yrvin at Tue, 2008/01/29 - 6:00am

"Finally, Nokia embraces open source technology"

News to Maemo developers, I'm sure.

"Chief Trolls and Nokia VP are now asking for ideas and comments on improving their relationship with the open source community."

Let's take a look at the first item on the agenda:

http://www.google.com/search?q=Nokia+software+patents


By The Badger at Tue, 2008/01/29 - 6:00am

"Insane Coder" wrote: "So Nokia could continue to develop Qt for their cellphones, and for customers such as Adobe, and even release Windows only, or perhaps even Windows and Mac OS X builds of Qt both proprietary and under the GPL, but none for X11." This is the foundation of the critique in the blog post.

However there is a fundamental error here. The Agreement defines Qt as being Qt on the "KDE Window System" (a defined term), which is designated as the X Window System (X). Note that the agreement does not concern itself at all with Qt on Windows, Mac or the Linux frame buffer (except indirectly: a GPL Qt on X can be ported to these other platforms). So when you read "Qt" in the agreement, read it as "Qt on the X Window System" (the agreement is not just for Linux, it's for all U*xes).

So if Trolltech (or its successor) does not release an "Important Release" of Qt for X every year, or releases a non-free version of Qt on X without an equivalent free version within a year, the Foundation will have the right to release the latest release under BSD or other open source licenses.


By Sage at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

In this case, then, they could still for whatever reason stop releasing Qt for Mac OS X as open source, or at all, and nothing FreeQt can do, right?
So what happens to the new Mac port of KDE?

Is it perhaps time to update that agreement to cover all the systems that KDE now runs on?


By Nach at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

You forget it's open source. It's already been ported to Mac OS X - so the great bulk of the work has been done, and the free software community could maintain the Mac OS (or Windows, or framebuffer) ports.


By Sage at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

..and you forget that they can change the license to whatever they want
for future versions and if you think the FREE SOFTWARE community would
maintain something for a proprietary platform you have to be delusional.

If you want to maintain it yourself just go ahead.


By alzheimer at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

There was a GPL Qt3 port to Windows. Basically the Qt framework is obviously modular to allow it to be ported to other platforms. So if you have Qt/X11, it's not too much work to make Qt/Mac or Qt/Windows.

In reality Nokia is a hardware company not a software company, so I see them becoming even more free about handing out licenses to Qt.


By Ian Monroe at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

> So if you have Qt/X11, it's not too much work to make Qt/Mac or Qt/Windows.
Oh it's much work alright. A lot work actually

> ...so I see them becoming even more free about handing out licenses to Qt.
Okay... I don't.


By alzheimer at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

I personally tried out the Qt3 port to Windows from X11, it was pretty bad, had all kinds of obscure bugs all over the place.

For example, launch another application with QProcess, and watch not being able to control the child process properly on Windows, and having memory leak all over the place.


By Nach at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

"you forget that they can change the license to whatever they want"

Actually, what I remembered is the following: (i) Qt for X is GPL and, due to the FreeQt agreement, has to remain that way; (ii) ports to Mac, Windows and FrameBuffer have been released under GPL; and (iii) even if these ports are no longer released under GPL in the future - i.e. the license on the other platforms changes - the past ports can be maintained (so you don't have to start from scratch).


By Sage at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

The thing is that you/we/KDE have/has to maintain it which is a huge effort and will _at least_ slow development down immensely. It's not like the guys at TT will quit their jobs to work on the free versions of Qt.

Let's wait and see. It's probably not going to happen today (if at all).


By alzheimer at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

Nokia did this move to have an answer to the Google phone I think. Therefore they need Qt and also Qtopia as a free and open alternative. Maybe they need to open it up even more, like under LGPL or BSD license.

What I personally may not even like, since the GPL is the best license to get further parties to contribute ....


By Adrian at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

>What I personally may not even like, since the GPL is the best license to get further parties to contribute ....

No. Even the kdelibs are lgpl and KDE is not lagging attraction.
Libs -> LGPL
Apps -> GPL


By Philipp at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

however, KDE isn't trying to make money off its libraries.


By Chani at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

You're missing a part of the picture here. Having Qt under the GPL is part of the business model which drives Qt development. Putting it under the LGPL would actually make things worse.

Consider the following:
1. release a beta version of a GPL toolkit
2. receive tons of feedback from KDE developers
3. process feedback to produce an enterprise-quality toolkit
4. release the final product, and commercial version
5. profit!
6. use the income to fund development and KDE developers
7. goto 1.

The model above drives the development of Qt, and has some interesting side effects:
- it's an upward spiral!
- Trolltech does lot of the heavy lifting, since Qt is their primary income.
They also do boring stuff developers wouldn't like to do unless they get paid.
- KDE gets an enterprise-quality toolkit in return.
- Trolltech is able to reach more customers and fund some KDE developers.

Also note the CEO of Trolltech explained recently how Trolltech became succesful because of KDE, not despite KDE. Customers are confident Qt is a good product since it's used to build a complete desktop environment, and often hear about Qt from KDE.

Putting Qt under the LGPL would break this model. It would hurt KDE too. Customers have fewer reasons to buy the commercial version, and there will be less income to fund development.


By Diederik van de... at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

Releasing Qt under under BSD or at least LGPL license would lead to massive spread of Qt which in turn would lead to improving Qt.


By Budzes at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

I'm not sure I'd agree with that. who exactly are you expecting to do the improving?

it would certainly lead to less money going to trolltech, which increases the risk of some talented developers finding themselves out of a job and having to go work on something other than qt/kde to pay the bills.


By Chani at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

Motorola, IBM, and KDE develops. This depends on where Nokia wants to go with QT. If they just want to kill Google's (and Apple's) entry into the cell phone market, but don't want to get into monopoly trouble they may want to make QT open source in a BSD type license. In this case they may want to leave just enough Motorola around that regulators won't come looking at them. IF they go this route they may get rid of most of their qt developers (there will never be a qt5), keeping just those who work on parts they need for internal projects.

I can come up with lots of alternatives that they CAN do. I can't tell you what they will do. So long as I can use qt4 in my comercial developments I don't care.


By Hank Miller at Tue, 2008/01/29 - 6:00am

>Having Qt under the GPL is part of the business model which drives Qt development.

Somehow I don't think TT business model is terribly important to Nokia.

Cheers,
CC


By Carlos Cesar at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

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