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

If this was done to..
a) to get a better product than gtk+/maemo and to actively develop it, or
b) to wipe out competition?

Hmm, Nokia to unify Linux userspace?


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

"a) to get a better product than gtk+/maemo"

Nokia's development is Symbian. GTK/Maemo is irrelevant really.


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

Perhaps they're planning to port Qt to Symbian? Symbian (IIRC) has several different UIs available to it already, and perhaps Nokia thinks that Qt is much nicer than any of the others.


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

They would have been absolutely free to do this without the huge legal, administrative and social headache that comes from acquiring another company.

I'm really not seeing a single advantage to Nokia here unless they want to stifle development of Qt. The only thing I can think of is that they do indeed want to use Qt (remember that they expressed dissatisfaction with the development of GTK? - http://www.osnews.com/story/18444/Nokia-Pushes-for-GTK+-3.0/) and will license Qt for development of apps intended to run on *Nokia* devices to commercial parties *for free*, or maybe a heavily discounted rate, and thus obtain a top-notch toolkit that has the number one strike against it (the need for closed-source software writers to pay a fairly hefty fee) removed, or at least mitigated. Money would continue to flow into Trolltech from the Windows app-writers side.

I'm sure though that even if this is what they are planning, there would have been easier ways to accomplish this than outright purchasing Trolltech - brokering some kind of special deal with TT, perhaps - so again, I really question what they have to gain, here.

On the plus side, TT are neither stupid/ naive nor desperate for cash, so there is presumably a good case for embarking on this path.

We'll have to wait and see, I guess :/


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

> unless they want to stifle development of Qt.

that has not been my understanding of the strategy.

> The only thing I can think of is that they do indeed want to use Qt

this is closer to it.


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

"I'm really not seeing a single advantage to Nokia here unless they want to stifle development of Qt"

I don't see how that would be an advantage. TT is doing nothing to hurt Nokia right now.


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

Greenphone. I know it is a non-issue today. However if Nokia sees derivitives as a future problem (compitition) they may want to buy TT now, just to make sure the greenphone never is a problem.

As I've said elsewhere, I can come up with many different explinations. I can't tell you which are correct. I wouldn't be surprised if all are wrong.


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

http://www.kdedevelopers.org/node/3233 -- Lookie this one.

And yes, Symbian has a couple UIs already, UIQ (Sony-Ericsson and recently also Motorola-owned) and the S whatevers (S60 right now) of Nokia.

Developing on Symbian seems like a total pain in the bum (at least from what I’ve seen so far), so having Qtopia/Qt/whatever on Symbian would be unspeakable awesomeness.


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

How could they get a better product than gtk+/maemo but purchasing QT? It makes no sense as QT is worse option. Not technically but in the big picture. Technically QT is respectable. It just attracts people who do not have the slightest clue about GUI designing - KDE folks and alike :-(


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

" It just attracts people who do not have the slightest clue about GUI designing - KDE folks and alike :-("

Don't be ridiculous. What possible property of Qt could make it unappealing to companies with a usability team?


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

Your nick says it all - drol = shit in dutch... Makes sense, as you talk like that.


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

I’ve seen quite a few terrible UIs written in… well, every toolkit, so whatever. Yes, Gnome has problems too, believe it or not.


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

I hope it won't end like Novell and OpenExchange.


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

To me it looks like a big company seeing the benefits of Qt, and taking measures to make sure it continues to be technically excellent in the future. Nokia has a nice (if not totally clean) track-record in the Free Software world, and as e.V. dude, I'd be happy to welcome them to support KDE more actively (which is what they plan to do).

Despite all the bitching, this is an excellent opportunity for KDE to gain more traction also in the mobile space - an area where there's quite some room for improvement for KDE currently. Seeing another big player in the industry backing (and using Qt) is probably a very good thing.

And if anything fails, having Qt under a BSD license (which is what the FreeQt foundation guarantees in case TT doesn't release a new version with real new features every year) should be enough of a safety net.

Otherwise, Trolltech has been an excellent partner to work with in the past, and I do not get the impression that this will change.


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

Not completely clean:

- heavy support of software patents in Europe
- known for pressing w3c to not include ogg in html 5 standards


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

"- heavy support of software patents in Europe
- known for pressing w3c to not include ogg in html 5 standards"

If Nokia are to get anywhere, that has to change.


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

«- known for pressing w3c to not include ogg in html 5 standards»

That's misleading. Nokia voted against OGG as a web standard; that is they want HTML to remain multimedia-neutral.


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

I wonder how many people complaining about this use gmail or similar sites?


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

Their arguments about this was amazingly flawed though. They even called Ogg for proprietary technology - I'm sorry, but WTF?!


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

That was my first thought...


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

1) Nokia is pushing for software patentability.
2) Nokia opposed OGG as a web standard
3) Nokia shut down the Bochum factory because they don't like the idea of well-paid workers
4) Nokia is a GTK/GNOME house and dont be naive, this is not changing
5) Nokia is obviously doing this in order to harm its competitors (Motorola...) who use Qtopia. Hence, don't expect good news for Qtopia.
6) Again, what is Trolltech gaining from this? Even if an acquirer was needed, Nokia would not be a good candidate.

There are many companies out there who would be happy to buy Trolltech and could be good partners. Nokia just isn't one of them.


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

well, (some) gtk guys are right now worried, that nokia will abandon gtk for qt. :-)


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

Which would be sad. There is a need for competition. A killed competitor makes you win for short, but you loose the force to be better. And it should be rather the closed source competition which should be the "looser", no?


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

Lucky for us, a switch by Nokia from GTK to Qt would not really harm GTK all that much, I'd say. Still, I have no illusions here. Novell bought Suse and it is not like all of a sudden they became great KDE supporters either.


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

but in the end they did, and they do more work on KDE than other distro's, so Novell buying Suse turned out to benefit suse and at the same time benefit gnome.


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

I agree. The other positive thing is that Gnome and KDE run side by side on openSuse better than on any other distro.

It's too early to conclude whether Nokia acquiring Trolltech and with it QT is negative or positive for KDE. I would say, let's wait and see ;)


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

"1) Nokia is pushing for software patentability.
2) Nokia opposed OGG as a web standard"

If Nokia are to get anywhere, this has to change. This is step 1.

"3) Nokia shut down the Bochum factory because they don't like the idea of well-paid workers"

Bochum produced little, and Nokia would have had to factor in the cost of laying off German workers. That isn't inexpensive. It happens.

"4) Nokia is a GTK/GNOME house and dont be naive, this is not changing"

Don't be naive. Nokia is not a GTK/Gnome house, they are a Symbian house. Many people like to think the GTK/Gnome stuff is significant. It isn't.

"5) Nokia is obviously doing this in order to harm its competitors (Motorola...) who use Qtopia."

I don't see why. They'll be making money out of them now.


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

>3) Nokia shut down the Bochum factory because they don't like the idea of well-paid workers
Nokia was the last producing in Germany.
So ALL mobile phone companies "don't like the idea of well-paid workers".


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

Your worries are less substantial than my yearly donations to "Crackheads for Kids" foundation (which are $0 if I recall correctly).

You look at it from the wrong perspective. The bottom line for KDE (also known as Lars at this point) points out that nothing, nada, zero changes for Trolltech engineers. Meaning that Trolltech team works as it always had. What changes is that they have more resources which is somewhere between "awesome" and "holly crap" on the good-scale.

Also what changes is that, and you can trust me on that, there's virtually no way of developing a patent free vector graphics framework that that good text handling. Most of the patents involved /can/ be disputed but the fact stays that there is tons of them. Your options pretty much are a) do nothing because you have no resources, b) get a patent sugar-daddy super company who can protect you. We used to do a. Option b is way better. Now Trolltech has b.

It all means that Trolltech is safer than it ever was and is free to do what it was always doing with more resources at its disposal. Wicked :)


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

"nothing, nada, zero changes for Trolltech engineers".

I haven't seen the merger agreement, maybe Lars has, but as a general rule, when someone acquires a company, one fundamental thing changes: the new owner gets control. And that means everything is changed. All the talk about "everything will stay the same" is standard fare chatter in connection with acquisitions, but those words have "nothing, nada, nada, zero" to do with predicting the actual future of the target company.

Now show me agreements in the purchase agreement in which Nokia agrees not to exercise any management control over Trolltech (i.e., does not get to appoint, terminate or reprimand the board of directors or officers), and there might actually be some substance to it, but I would eat my proverbial hat . . . .


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

As important as someone who uses just a nickname on a public forum is, I'm not sure whether you are in a position to make demands (maybe if you changed it to Madonna, Prince or Bono it would work).

It's people who make the company, not the company that makes people. Trolltech is what it is because it has one of the best engineering teams in the world. All you need to know from the agreement is: what happened to the Trolltech engineering team. Answer of "nothing" is the best possible scenario (the case here).

Look at the managers who lead engineering teams at Trolltech for indication of what's going to happen. If Lars, Matthias and Warwick are there, any discussions about Trolltech's dedication to KDE, Open Source and Qt are silly at best. If there's anything you can be certain in this world is that this guys will never let their vision to be trashed.


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

Zack, I have a lot of respect for you (from reading your blogs), but you don't honestly believe what you write here, do you? At least I'm very concerned about all this. When the Nokia accountants decided that e.g. supporting KDE developers is not efficent for reaching there business goals how much say will "Lars, Matthias and Warwick" have? None, probably. And what interest can a company like Nokia have to support an open source desktop? None, probably. This is best illustrated by the Bochum case: Nokia make a profit of over 7 billion Euro, an increase of 67% and they close the factory because of - inefficiency: wtf?!


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

I think Nokia has all the reasons to continue working with KDE for the exact same reason it was interesting for TrollTech to do so : a toolkit like Qt is a rather complex thing to create and to have a complete desktop built on it and providing enormous feedback on almost every usage you can imagine, with quite a lot of users, and at the same time not being directly usable by the competition, is really an enormous advantage. I don't see any reason why Nokia would phase this out as long as they are interested in Qt technology.
I don't think there is any reason to panic here : there's very little chance that Qt could be lost to the open source cause, and if everything goes wrong (and there's no reason to think it will, open source lives well within Sun, for instance), I'm pretty sure many TT guys will leave and make take over the BSD Qt to create another company with the same goals TT had.
So since there should be nothing to be afraid of as far as KDE is concerned, why just not wish good luck to TT and hope they'll be able to add even more goodness in it, using the input of ressources Nokia will provide?


By Richard Van Den Boom at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

If TT goes evil and closes the QT source somehow, that'll be a massive pity. That said, as long as QT is GPL it can (and will if the need arises) be forked.

It has happened before.


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

Well, the difference I see here is that Trolltech developed a general purpose framework to be used for all kinds of applications. And for this having KDE as a widely spread testing platform covering all kinds of usage cases is surely a good thing for the company. BUT Nokia has probably no interest in that. I can't imagine they now want to enter the business of selling widget toolkits. IMO they bought Trolltech primaily to develop their own restricted set of applications and for this I think they don't need such a lot of testing as provided by KDE. Of course they will take it as long as they get it for free. But will they support KDE developers? Will they react on development wishes by the KDE community? Maybe they do it now, in order to avoid bad press. But mayby they will silently cease the support for KDE ... I just find it hard to believe that Nokia activly supports free software, as TT did.

(Note: I'm not talking about the licensing issues here, this should be fairly save due to GPL and Free-Qt-Foundation. I'm more concerned about the other support KDE got from TT)


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

You mean that Nokia is now in the desktop business?

Seriously?

Nokia is phones with alot of traction. Phones are getting bigger and more capable. Trolltech is desktops, ie. a library for building apps with some traction, KDE being an obvious benefit to them. They moved into portables and phones with little traction.

How does KDE as desktop tie into Nokia as phones?

How the phone market works here is that you run what you get from the store. No changes, no changing to version 4.1 to see how it works. If KDE has any place here it's as free labour for the phone manufacturers and network owners.

In other words, Trolltech/Nokia will probably continue to provide a seriously good library, but what KDE needs will get back to how it always was, KDE writes. I have had serious doubts about the viability of the Trolltech takeover of major maintenance intensive sections of the KDE desktop that we have seen in the last while (QPrinter, Webkit, #'s of lead developers on payroll, to name a few).

Derek


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

"When the Nokia accountants decided that e.g. supporting KDE developers is not efficent for reaching there business goals"

Politics inevitably comes into it, it alwas does, but the fact is that Nokia wouldn't have bothered with this if they weren't going to make Trolltech their development centre, effectively. It would be a bad idea to chop that. Additionally, it is self-sustaining.

"This is best illustrated by the Bochum case: Nokia make a profit of over 7 billion Euro, an increase of 67% and they close the factory because of - inefficiency: wtf?!"

Bochum was a mistake, produced little and shows what can happen when subsidies are involved.


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

"This is best illustrated by the Bochum case: Nokia make a profit of over 7 billion Euro, an increase of 67% and they close the factory because of - inefficiency: wtf?!"

Are you of the school of thought who thinks that "if company makes even one euro in profit, they must NOT try to make their operations more efficient in any shape or form"?.

Fact of the matter is that comparing expenses to production, Bochum was an albatross around Nokia's neck. IIRC, Bochum represented about 24% of Nokia's expenses, while representing only 6% of production. Bochumians should be grateful for the fact that Nokia pumped millions of euros to the local economy for years. That's more than German cell-phone-manufacturers have done (which moved out of Germany long ago).

Few years ago Fujitsu-Siemens shut down a proditable computer-plant in Finland and moved production to Germany. For some reason Germans never opposed that move...


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

It's not _that_ they did it, it's _how_ they did it. Sure, the can make as much money as they like, I couldn't care less. And the numbers you name a company surely can't accept forever. But they didn't seem to even try to make them better by talking to the employees and maybe find a compromise. If that didn't work out, they still could move the production. However the employees got the news from the press! Additionally they not only pumped millions of euros to the local economy, but also got subsidies from the government... With the 7 billion I just wanted to note that Nokia can very well afford to keep certain ethical standards while still making _a lot_ of profit, but they just didn't care.

And hey, this is not a Finland vs. Germany thing, at least from my side. No need to feel attacked ;) It wouldn't be any better if that were a german company!


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

"It's not _that_ they did it, it's _how_ they did it."

Well, how did they do it?

"But they didn't seem to even try to make them better by talking to the employees and maybe find a compromise"

Reality-check: Bochum is an old television-factory. years ago televisions became unprofitable and Nokia exited the business. They found a compromise back then: they started building phones in the factory. Isn't THAT a "compromise"? Nokia gave the factory YEARS of extra life, while pumping millions to the local economy.

"Additionally they not only pumped millions of euros to the local economy, but also got subsidies from the government."

And I bet they paid a lot more back than what they received from the government. And why are those subsidies an issue? They gave those subsisies on the condition that Nokia will operate the factory for X years. X years has now passed, and they are closing the factory. And the problem is.... what?

"With the 7 billion I just wanted to note that Nokia can very well afford to keep certain ethical standards while still making _a lot_ of profit, but they just didn't care."

What "ethical standards"? Is is "more ethical" to operate a factory in Germany than it is to operate one in Romania?

"It wouldn't be any better if that were a german company!"

It just happens that when German companies pulled the plug on cell-phone manufacturing in Germany, no-one in Germany said a word. What should we do if/when Porsche decides to pull the plug on Porsche-manufacturing in Finland, and move that production to Germany... Will there be demonstrations in Germany then? But hey, I guess that would be "ethical"?


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

I rather believe that Trolltech got the biggest chunk of its high profile because of its licensing. I don't say anything against the developer team - they may be the best of the word but that's not decisive. The licensing is! We all know that KDE would not be based on Qt without the free lecense being there.

Most likely Nokia, even being in control now, cannot change anything about the licensing of the existing versions - but they can do it for future versions! So, it's possible that really nothing changes for the developing team of Trolltech. A little licensing policy change is all that's needed. I cannot imagine a reason for Nokia to spend money on something like this UNLESS it provides them with a way to handicap competitors.

I'm seriously worried!


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

If licensing was an issue, I'm not sure Nokia would have left TT switch to GPL3 one week before the buyout annoucement.
You're aware, of course, that this type of buyout takes months of discussion, and it's usually not a good idea to cross your buyer?


By Richard Van Den Boom at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

Why the would they care about the license? They could change it to whatever they want with the next version.


By doesn't matter at Mon, 2008/01/28 - 6:00am

Yeah, they can change but once Qt is GPLv3 it can not be revoked and that version can be forked by others.


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

Even ignoreing the poison pill, this verson is GPLv3 and that can't be revoked


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

Because by terms of the agreement with the Free-Qt-Foundation, the latter can basically throw the whole codebase on the street for everybody to use as they see fit under a BSD-style licence. You'd risk throwing away a rather large portion of Trolltech's capital in the form of intellectual property.


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

"intellectual property"

go to RMS


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

"I'm not sure whether you are in a position to make demands."

I'm not demanding anything. You made what I believe to be a very incorrect statement, namely, that nothing has changed. My point was that Nokia has control and can fire the engineers you are speaking about if it chooses. Maybe Nokia won't but my point is the entire business model has changed.

If we are lucky, Nokia will treat Qt as a services business and make revenues through support and charging for modifications, rather than on license fees, and keep all the KDE developers. But that is Nokia's choice and, as has been noted, they are a global company focused on the bottom line.

Consider for example: did SuSE undergo changes after being acquired by Novell (recall we where told, no significant changes would be made)? Would SuSE have entered into a patent agreement with Microsoft? Relegated KDE to the backburner? Open-sourced YaST?


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

"My point was that Nokia has control and can fire the engineers you are speaking about if it chooses. Maybe Nokia won't but my point is the entire business model has changed."

Why the heck would they do that? Trolltech are the experts in Qt technology. Nokia wants to help grow that technology. To fire the engineers would mean a huge brain drain. They would have to spend millions to train other engineers.


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

Well, it happened to me before.

Small "linux embbeded" company get bought by a bigger company.

Management decides: "Hey lets make a new product, but to make it really nice,
let's make it a Windows CE box, so that users can plug-in USB modules like GPS and webcam and stuff out of the box and do Pocket Word and Pocket Excel".

Management thinks: "But we are a Linux company, so hmmm let's have
a hardware layer, a Linux layer and a Windows CE GUI layer in C#",
since we can do the Linux layer easily (they used framebuffer before).

The system ends up really slow and too much battery consuming due to 2 MIPS processor. 80% of Linux engineers quits because they are fed up and don't want to do any C# on Windows CE. Junior MSCE programmers are hired to do the C#,
and they create an inefficient piece of crapt.
They also get a MSDN Universal / Microsoft Partnership deals so it cost less.

Someone at the head quarters figure out this mess,
wonders why this Linux thing is used at all.
AMD sends us a prototype board and using a x86 instead for Windows CE makes thing much faster (problem solved).
The Linux layer is scrapt (useless).

The project is cancelled and moved to head quarters
using Windows CE / Hardware only on x86,
so that they can more tightly control the project.

Everyone at our office gets laid off just before Christmas.
Happy new year everyone!

Overall, since the head quarter bought us and another rival,
both shops are now closed and both R&D products were shut down.
What a waste of time and energy.


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

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