Gnomes, trolls and the maemo lands
Nokia going after Trolltech and Trolltech going inside Nokia, that’s an interesting move. Somewhat surprising move (I also knew about it by reading the press releases), but sensible in fact. The community reactions have been as interesting. No wonder, in this story you can find all the elements for a free software soap opera and for hilarious pub-level discussions as well. I believe the actual steps are slightly less emotional, though.
Obviously people want to know how this affects to maemo, and I made some research to confirm the guess. When it comes to maemo, there are no Trolltech/Qt related plans at the moment. As you know the maemo stack depends heavily on the GNOME components. Nokia has been supporting many GNOME projects and the GNOME ecosystem itself (Foundation and some companies) both with resources, public backing and code. There are no changes in these relationships and, in fact, within the context of evolution of the maemo platform the trend is to push more innovation through these channels and to strengthen the collaboration with the community upstream.
On the mid term… well, nobody knows. What follows are my thoughts today.
Looking the Nokia/Trolltech move from a KDE vs GNOME perspective would be a mistake. Looking at my collection of GNOME t-shirts I’m also tempted in taking this situation from a football fan point of view, but things are much more serious than that. There are many actors and software components in this Middle Earth of mobile platforms where maemo lives. The potential combinations are many and everybody is looking for the right one. The competition is fierce, specially when it comes to the mobile desktop. What if you need the best of both platforms to succeed with a proposal based on Linux & open source?
Qt is one piece of the KDE project, as GTK+ is one piece of the GNOME platform, but there is a lot more inside both projects, and even more elsewhere in the open source community. Many GNOME components present in the maemo platform (some of them also part of the Freedesktop.org initiative) are top class and Nokia keeps contributing to them. The Trolltech acquisition plans don’t affect these components in any way, not even in the mid term.
GTK+, Qt and related UI toolkits are definitely in the hot spot, receiving from many directions a big pressure to push the next mobile user interfaces. Nokia invests in GTK+ development for maemo and the Trolltech acquisition implies that Nokia plans to invest more in Qt development. This shows to me a clearer commitment to the open source game. Additionally, both investments benefit GNOME, KDE and the free desktop development in general, mobile or not. My conclusion: an interesting move.
If you still don’t get why Nokia wants to acquire Trolltech, please continue reading.
A first advice to any free software lover willing to understand: get to know what are the main businesses of Nokia and Trolltech nowadays. Yes, Nokia sells phones and Nokia has a Linux & GTK+ based platform called maemo for the not-a-phone Internet tablets. And yes, Trolltech supports the development of KDE. But both do a lot more, and their core business strategies have other key elements.
Trolltech develops Qt, a cross-platform application development framework that powers KDE and is also licensed to many commercial software projects. Nokia pushes the Symbian OS with several own platforms on top like S60, <edited>plus S40 running on top of its own Nokia developed OS</edited>, plus several non-mobile applications like Nokia PC Suite (developed with Qt, by the way). Trolltech’s toolkit and its C++ native language (which is native in Symbian as well) fit very well in Nokia’s short term strategy to improve cross-compatibility between the Symbian platforms. If making a good use of the Qt library helps having in maemo some of the cool stuff available in S60, all the better then.
This is the main reason why Nokia wants to acquire Trolltech. There are other interesting elements in the table like the Linux & open source skills but none of them would push such move alone. Personally, I wish getting Trolltech’s intelligence in house will help in other fronts as well, remarkably adding weight to the open source & community involvement agendas many of us are pushing internally. Putting Qt’s cross-platform capabilities to work on the PC side would be also nice, getting better support for Mac & Linux users.
All in all a good move if you, like me, think that a company like Nokia can have an important role pushing Linux & open source to the real mainstream. Even if it takes a while.
Filed under: maemo | 13 Comments
Tags: GNOME, GNU/Linux, GTK+, KDE, maemo, Nokia, open source, Qt, Trolltech