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.

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3) Nokia plays nicely and embraces KDE, invests money in improving KDE, writes closed source apps for KDE (it's privileged to do so), ports Qt and KDE to its selected platforms... Will competitors use KDE? Will the community work force continue with the same enthusiasm?

My point is that with the current Qt licensing model - extra value for the owner of trolltech - things will always be delicate...

"Will competitors use KDE? Will the community work force continue with the same enthusiasm?"

I don't see why not. The source code is there, people are free to use KDE and Qt for things they want, and not to use KDE and Qt for things they won't want.

"My point is that with the current Qt licensing model - extra value for the owner of trolltech - things will always be delicate..."

I really, really wish everybody had top notch development tools and libraries for free, and that everything was magically and invisibly moved forwards. Alas, the world doesn't work like that.

"Of course Redhat has some control, but only as long as everybody is happy with their work."

They don't really have a choice, unless they want to fork it.

"If Redhat was being taken over, moving in a totally wrong direction, it wouldn't matter for GTK+ that much."

If Red Hat was taken over and they didn't like some of the additions people were proposing to GTK, or any other project they had influence over, you can bet that patches wouldn't be accepted. You can see some examples where Red Hat's people have categorically stated that if Gnome were to start including Mono as its base, Red Hat would for Gnome. Presumably, they wouldn't accept patches for that purpose into the main GTK repository either.

There's really no difference at all.

"Anything Redhat or anyone else does for GTK+ is instantly and only creating public value. There is no additional private value for the copyright owner."

You don't understand this. Trust me. If people were proposing patches to GTK or any other heavily Red Hat influences project, and those patches threatened Red Hat's commercial value somewhere, they would simply not be accepted. People have levelled this accusation at Nokia with Qt, but the same applies, and has applied, to Maemo.

You don't understand that you don't necessarily have to be the copyright holder to have major influence over an open source software project at all.

"Because i think depending on the fate of a single company is quite problematic for a FOSS project like KDE."

It's funny that a lot of people claim that for other projects, corporate backing of companies is a good thing.

"People wouldn't worry about this Nokia deal that much if Qt were LGPLed."

Sigh........... I wish people would drop this LGPL crap as if it is the answer to everyone's prayers. The license model of Qt means that an organisation has the motivation and will to drive the software continually forwards. This is very important for a development library. When you compare it to GTK and other more 'liberally' licensed development libraries, you can't see an awful lot happening with them.

We go back to the reasons why KDE used Qt. No, not everyone gets everything they want, but creating a desktop with all the applications development tools and infrastructure needed is damn hard. Everything depends on everything else. Do you create your own development libraries, taking on all that entails, or do you lean on a receptive company or organisation where you all get something in return?

Given the fact that GTK and various other liberally licensed development libraries are a long, long, long way behind where we need to be if we want a good looking, functional desktop that fulfils all the requirements the KDE developers want of it, you'd have to say that KDE has made the right choice.

I'd like to see RMS comment on this Nokia/Trolltech (Qt) situation.

by A KDE advocate (not verified)

Psst. Nokia != Qt != KDE. There are minds and eyes at each of them. Who are you? KDE doesn't need you. Kthxbai.

KDE and QT were on a really good way, but Nokia won't do anything good to us all. Nokia has now control over Qt, but they can't really get control about GTK.

by A KDE advocate (not verified)

I do believe that Nokia needs to do more to show true support for Free Software and open standards (and yes I'm aware of Nokia stance on the HTML5/Ogg issue and patents) but Nokia *is* developing Free Software *now* Acquiring Trolltech means they will develop *more* free software.

As far as "control" concerned, I think you're referring to Free Software vendor and community relationship management. Trolltech has been a prominent example of how a company truly supports Software Freedom: GPL licensed (not 3!), working in the open (now with a recent public issue and a development blog) and maintaining a vibrant, active and very friendly community. In the recent conference at Googleplex, Trolltech stated that much of their publicity and half of their customers were routed from KDE. So do you think they are going to give this all up in a blink of an eye?

by A KDE advocate (not verified)

* now 3!

(I hate confusing those typos!)

> KDE doesn't need you.
...but KDE needs Qt. Haha.
KDE without Qt would be just random c++ gibberish. "Qt != KDE" == LOL

It's gonna be a fun ride.
"The fall of KDE. It started in early 2008 when..."

Ever hear of the FreeQT Foundation? If Nokia screws up, Qt gets the BSD license across the board. No downfall there, the KDE devs will just pick it up (or someone else interested).

Yes. Everything will be awesome. This buyout is good after all.
Wait a second...

by A KDE advocate (not verified)

I'm talking people-wise not code-wise. And it seems like the old KDE-4-is-just-hype kind of trolls are back around the block. Well screw you, KDE is as strong as it never has been and people who develop it care about it way much more than you can dream of.

..taking that for granted still makes me wonder why a lot of grave bugs still haven't been wiped from trunk (except from translation commits, kdelibs SVN is rather quiet).. if I just knew how to debug problems lying somewhere in communication between processes, hell I would try..

by Grosy Daniel (not verified)

Qt is under GPL which means that KDE can fork it if Nokia does not develop it so that it is good for KDE. And, as it is under GPL, I do not think that the copyright owner really matters.

by Leaves (not verified)


I was wondering, does anyone know how much does this cost Nokia? I don't know much about big money, but is this just a small investment for Nokia or is this something really big for Nokia. Ie. how much bigger is Nokia then Trolltech?


by Lars G (not verified)

Well think something, in the last numbers comming in, Nokia has 40% of the cell phone market in the world, that means it's the single largest cell phone maker in the world...

by m. (not verified)

Nokia profits Q4 2007 - 2.8 billion $
Estimated TrollTech value with 16NOK per share price - 150 millions $

by YourAverageJoe (not verified)

Which is peanuts. Everything under $1billion is peanuts for companies the size of Nokia.

by planner (not verified)

This guy has another theory on why Nokia went for Trolltech, and I think if you understand what Nokia feels about Google's Android platform, you'll likely agree with him. Read his opinion at

by Pessimist (not verified)

I would fork Qt in Google's position, this would would make a continued free (desktop) development more realistic. Then Google could merge Nokia's code from time to time (if they will release something useful).
I think Nokia will concentrate on embedded/mobile devices if anything and won't open the key technologies for their competitors.

by anonymous (not verified)

Finally someone understands the real reason.

There is only couple of company's Nokia is worried about. Those are Google and Microsoft.

by Iuri Fiedoruk (not verified)

I've read all messages here so far, I've stoped to think... and by all means my initial perspective was not changed. Simply put: "Oh crap, this is bad!"

by thruth (not verified)

Bad and sad. What's also sad are all the responses from the KDE people.
I didn't know that KDE was lead by a bunch of Miguel de Icaza's. Speaking of... I remember a lot of people complaining about the inclusion of .NET into GNOME and that many GNOME users would switch to KDE as a result. What now? Now the foundation of KDE is controlled by yet another greedy evil multi-billion corporation which doesn't even has an interest in KDE on the PC desktop.
So GNOME is crap because of MS tech in it, GTK is crap because it's crap and now KDE is virtually controlled by a massive evil entity.

Sad times for the free software desktop.

by A KDE advocate (not verified)

I hope you can back your statements about KDE developers endorsing vendor-lock and patent-encumbered solutions because otherwise your just spreading lies and FUD. IBM is one example of a "massive entity" yet it does develop proprietary and Free Software platforms, side by side.

by thruth (not verified)

> I hope you can back your statements about KDE developers endorsing vendor-lock and patent-encumbered solutions because otherwise your just spreading lies and FUD.

Okay. It's known that Nokia advocates software patents. The buyout of Qt screams "anti-competitive" and vendor lock-in is probably next on their list. Now the fact that none of the KDE guys worry one single bit about this travesty that's going on here leads to much concern. I think a comparison with de Icaza is not too far off here.

> IBM is one example of a "massive entity" yet it does develop proprietary and Free Software platforms, side by side.

IBM is a patent troll and one of the worst corporations ever:

They don't really give a crap about free software and its philosophy. It's just another way to make profits.
Not a good example.

by Daniel Skov Kle... (not verified)

A company should always try to maximize profits! - Otherwise they are inefficient!
IBM is motivated by profits! - And why is that bad?

Improvements on free software is in public interest, controlled by a "massive entity", or not.

In this Nokia-case though, a fork should be made, and maintained aside Qt.

by blueget (not verified)

Yeah, it's really sad. I wouldn't have a problem if it wasn't Nokia who now owns TT/Qt. A well known GTK/GNOME Company, enemy of free software standards (OGG, for example) and supporter of software patents now controlls the best toolkit on the free software market.

by Leo S (not verified)

Nokia is not a GTK company. They use GTK, but they have also publicly complained that GTK has no roadmap and is lacking in several areas. Much more likely is that they will now shift their focus to Qt for their products. Much cheaper than trying to get GTK up to snuff.

by Martin (not verified)

Why should Nokia actually buy Trolltech?

Why not fund a project or cooperate?

What is the actual motivation here for Nokia, what do they actually get out of owning Trolltech?

Companies the size of Nokia get run by accountants and lawyers.

I hope it all works to the good.

by carlo (not verified)

Nokia is a corporation, they don't want to cooperate, they want to control.

by eMPee584 (not verified)

shouldn't it be called controlation or so then..?!

by danborne (not verified)

There motivation might be, as suggested above, a fear of Google's android platform. They, despite their packaged letter, do not want necessarily to help us(KDE) unless if there is an apparent benefit to their business. It is all game theory xD

by anonymous (not verified)

Nokia buys Trolltech because they are expanding to software market. It's hard for Nokia to get more then 40% of world's mobile market so they have to get more ways to make money. Trolltech gives them one good way to compete with Microsoft and Google.

Stock owners want more money. That's the only meaning for publicly traded company.

by karl (not verified)

At the slightest sign of QT becoming a piece of shit like Symbian, we should fork QT and the hell with Nokia et all.

by you just got nokia'd (not verified)

Slightest sign:

You maintain it.

by Brandon P. (not verified)

As a commercial developer using Qt, I am not happy with the Nokia deal. For free software, forking may not be a bad idea if Nokia drives Qt down a bad path... but for companies that sell products based on Qt this will not work. My company will not be able to sell our product developed with the GLP version. Since I do not use QTopia, this will hopefully not effect me... but we have used 3rd party products that have later been bought by a competitor. I could write pages about how bad this is. Bottom line, I feel bad for those using QTopia... I just hope this doesn't affect regular developers and the KDE community.

by Richard Lionhard (not verified)

Thanks for posting.
Thanks for the first hand experience too. I was wondering what commercial developers think of the deal.

by Antonie Fourie (not verified)

I personally believe the tidings of woe are overblown. You're average desktop user does not particularly care about underlying technologies and who owns what - just ask the millions of Windows users out there. People just don't care, and why should they. The vast majority of the target market out there looks for useful solutions to day-to-day productivity needs - issues of ownership and licensing isn't really part of the equation.

by AC (not verified)

Bla bla bla average joe.

Average joe doesn't care, it's true, but people are worried (me included) that Qt development stalls or stops worrying about the desktop. Qt has been advancing in big steps on the latest releases, and I guarantee that although "average joe" doesn't care, some cool technologies that would make it to qt never do, and as such never make it to KDE, and that "average joe" can see.

Without Qt, kde wouldn't be where it is today (also the reverse is true), and would you say that isn't visible?

(I might add that after seeing so many important kde dev's and trolltech members speaking for this acquisition, my fears are starting to settle. Just tired of average joe trolling.)

by taj (not verified)

The first thought that came to mind was - about time too. Let's see what Nokia gets here - a common SDK for their desktop and mobile/PDA software, a mature and proven app/telephony platform to replace the badly outmoded Symbian OS, control over the feature and portability roadmap of this platform (which they don't have with GTK+), and instant access to a third-party developer base (Qt, KDE and Qtopia developers). The price they are paying for all this is basically lunch money for a company like Nokia.

I don't see why they would mess with Trolltech's relationship with KDE, since KDE put Qt and Trolltech on the map in the first place and nobody at TT is going to forget that. It's the best advertising for their platform possible. In the worst case, there is the FreeQt agreement, and KDE devs can fork the GPL version of Qt anytime.

by gerd (not verified)

As we can fork Suse, right? After Novell bought Suse it got polluted with Gnome/GTK technology and ideological decisions against QT and KDE took place.

Will Nokia be another Novell?

by taj (not verified)

That is always a danger when we are depending on a for-profit company to maintain a critical piece of software, whether Nokia is involved or not. If the "community" thought it was important enough to fork SuSE, it would. That it did not is a sign that all the folks who think it is important are also the folks who are unwilling to put in the work. Too bad.

This same issue applies with Qt. If the KDE "community" fails to fork and maintain Qt in the case of hostile behaviour from Nokia, then it is the community's problem and not that of Nokia.

by Luke Chatburn (not verified)

Everyone here needs to take a breath.

Nokia has good reasons for wanting Qt and good business motivation to use it and develop it.

Nokia develops: Phones, Smartphones, PDAs, UMPCs, Embedded devices, Set-Top Boxes and a raft of other devices of various sizes and configurations. This will get worse with WiMAX devices no longer even being recognisable phones at times.

Phone makers used to managed their own single OS stack across their entire range, and they had some control. Now they are facing disperate platforms, with differing OSs, because the form factors of their products vary so much. That's a killer for:
-Tech Support
-Programmer team requirements for each platform
-Cross-platform services and apps

The current situation is costing them way too much, they can't support it all, they can't provide a distinctive 'Nokia look and feel' anymore, and they can't add their own services and apps that are unique to their phones and allow them to distinguish themselves from the competition and add value to their devices.

If you sell someone a phone with a special web search application that is form-factor suitable and charge 1p a search, you get their initial money and an ongoing fee, essentially. Nokia would like that, but it needs a client application to make it work on all their platforms.

Qt makes that happen.

Nokia wants desktop Qt to continue as it is, because sooner or later, UMPCs and all the rest make phones look like desktop machines with different form factors... Code will just work across all scales of devices. This is the ongoing power of Linux and Qt, taking the same apps from phone to PDA to Laptop to Desktop to Server to Mainframe.

This is the future, and Nokia just ensured that they are part of that future.

But you should definitely expect some more Qt/Embedded development in the near future :)

The first sensible comment I’ve read. :D

by Jim (not verified)

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...again

Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need...of some...stranger's hand
In a...desperate land


by Anon (not verified)

Now, a bad case in open source community. Congratulations!
Actually, I think KDE are the better desktop solution on open source world. I use KDE the last 6 years, and not only on Linux.
KDE can compete with Windows XP/Vista and MacOSX. That's really good!
This comment aren't just about "open source defense". Are about serious open source applications against closed source applications.
With this move, let's me say, IMHO, that's will be:
1) Some developers will move away from Qt based applications if Nokia don't do a good job with Qt (like TT was done).
2) Users go away because, with less developers, applications will be obsolete (bugs, lack of features, etc).
3) More developers go away because don't have users interested and so on....
Silently, with the time, this applications can be die.
Who will concerns about a Qt BSD Licensed without a lot of applications using them? I think no ones.
Of course, I really think that's Qt will continue to be distributed under GPL. And with some improvements, but oriented to Nokia business.
To me are simple: Qt and software development are the core-business of Trolltech. Mobile are the core business of Nokia. Improvements are made oriented by the core business.
I can't think in a worst company to acquire TT... Oh, yes, may be M$?
With this, my previous congratulations to the closed source world: will be free of more good competitors!

I knew Lolcats don't like this merge neither!

by Richard Lionhard (not verified)

This is a sad day for open source agreed. +1

by Jesus R. Acosta (not verified)

Well, Let us an opportunity to Nokia. Let's see what happens, but do not worry, KDE is open source and there are ways to continue its development independently.

Pessimism does not lead us to anything.

Let us be optimistic!!!

by Andre (not verified)

Nokia is a great concern because of their agressive software patent promotion and lobbying in Europe through inhouse patent professionals as Tim Frain. I would prefer a patent pledge from Nokia which clearly indemnifies open source development from patent threats and an open patent reform platform, and a more sane corporate policy towards patent policy in Europe that endorses both a harmonization of substantive patent law in the EU through legislative means, full support of the community patent and a rejection of the costly EU-EPLA proposal from the Commission and the the EPLA proposal from the EPO.