The second annual Trolltech Developer Days took place last month in San Jose, USA and on last week in Munich, Germany. They featured keynotes and presentations from Eirik Chambe-Eng, Trolltech's co-founder and President; Matthias Ettrich, founder of KDE and Trolltech's Vice President Software Development; Aaron Seigo, KDE Core Contributor and many others. Read on for a summary of some of the keynotes and presentations given in Munich.
The first keynote by Eirik Chambe-Eng, Trolltech's co-founder and president, gave an overview of the company's current situation and future plans:
Trolltech continues to grow at an impressive rate, they increased their staff from 80 to 140 employees in the last twelve months. A second round of fundraising, which brought $6.7 million of disposable money to the company, was recently completed. Trolltech has opened an office in China. And of course the long awaited Qt 4 was released. In the coming twelve months Trolltech will become a professional service organisation. They will develop new products that complement and expand the usage of Qt. A continued focus on making Qt easier to use, faster, leaner and better will be kept and it is expected that Qtopia will explode in the phone market.
One of the new products complementing and expanding the usage of Qt will be a thin client architecture called Qt/Coco, named after designer Coco Chanel who said one can never be too rich or too thin. It is targeted at enterprise users and it will allow server side Qt apps to be deployed on thin, universal clients in an organisation, with the goal to dramatically reduce administration costs. Currently, Qt/Coco is in the prototype stage and it already shows amazing performance (ten times faster than X11). Trolltech is also developing Java-bindings for Qt called Qt/Java, which will allow Java developers to use the Qt API. A prototype will be available in the first quarter of 2006.
Qtopia is another success story for Trolltech. The company currently has 85 customers using Qtopia, from which 30 are mobile phone builders. Linux is the disruptive force in the handset industry and Trolltech's goal is that 100 million handsets are sold using Qtopia by 2008. Qtopia 4, which is currently under development, will be based on Qt 4. Some of its highlights will be a native sandbox for safe execution of programs, an integrated SQL database on every device and advanced graphics due to the new Arthur painting subsystem in Qt4. Some of the advantages of Qtopia over .Net are: customisability of the user interface, lower memory consumption and the availability of the source code.
The second keynote by Matthias Ettrich, founder of KDE and Trolltech's Vice President of Software Development gave an overview of Qt 4:
The design goals of Qt 4 were to enhance the capabilities, to increase the flexibility and to lay a solid foundation for the future. Mostly Qt 4 turned out as an immediate success. The clean Qt 4 code base allows Trolltech to turn quickly and there are successful and fast ports from Qt 3. Qt 4 has also been quickly adopted in the open source world. However, some users are dissatisfied with the speed of certain painting operations and the qt3to4 porting tool and the Qt3Support library partly failed to deliver: some ported applications compiled, but looked very odd when running. Qt 4.1 brings many small bug fixes, based on customer feedback. Arthur, the painting subsystem of Qt 4, is optimised, including accelerations using OpenGL. It also included a highly improved and extended Qt3Support library and an enhanced Qt Designer with an action editor. Qt 4.1 also includes a new painting backend for Arthur: a SVG backend that renders SVGs either using the native rendering backend (e.g. Render on X11, core graphics on MacOSX) or OpenGL.
For the future, Trolltech is porting Qt 4 to Windows Vista and it is improving the embedded and the MacOSX version of Qt 4. Also the Qt 3 to Qt 4 migration experience will be further improved. New features according to customer needs will be integrated. Some examples could be: scripting in dialogues, printing (currently there is no cross platform preview function available), desktop integration (systray, mimetypes, help system), high-level mainwindow integration in native platforms (e.g. always use SDI on MacOSX), cross desktop IPC, improvements to the help system (currently there is no infrastructure for a context sensitive help system) and a component model.
After lunch, Aaron Seigo talked about Qt and the Future of the KDE interface.
Aaron first summarised some facts about KDE 3. It is based on monolithic libraries, has an attractive interface which is limited by the current desktop imaging techniques, has lots of features and lots of applications. KDE 4's library layout will follow Qt 4's more modular approach. The libraries will be split into modular components and frameworks and the naming and API consistency will be improved.
Next Aaron discussed the merits of the single click interface. Single clicks are good because they are easier to learn and more predictable then double clicks. In addition they are quicker. The downsides are that it is not straight-forward how the user can select something. And single click actions still have to be learnt. An alternative approach that shares the advantages of the single click interface, but does not have the disadvantages, is a mouse-over based interface. The basic idea is that a (transparent) menu opens if the mouse is over an icon. This context menu presents options like select and activate that can be performed with an object. The image below shows a mockup of such a mouse-over based interface.
KDE will also feature an improved KDevelop and Kontact. The MDI mode and the toolbar configuration will be reworked and enhanced. KDE will also feature a new default icon theme called Oxygen.
I want to thank Matthias Ettrich who made it possible for me to attend the Trolltech developer days in Munich