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Nokia acquires Trolltech

Dials up Linux support

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Nokia is to acquire Trolltech, makers of the popular cross-platform Qt GUI API and widget set. Qt (Cute Toolkit) is used by KDE, one of the two most widely used Linux desktops. It is also used in many cross-platform applications.

The announcement states that Qt will continue to be open source:

We will continue to actively develop Qt and Qtopia. We also want to underline that we will continue to support the open source community by continuing to release these technologies under the GPL.

Nokia says:

The acquisition of Trolltech will enable Nokia to accelerate its cross-platform software strategy for mobile devices and desktop applications, and develop its internet services business. With Trolltech, Nokia and third-party developers will be able to develop applications that work in [sic] the internet, across Nokia's device portfolio and on PCs. Nokia's software strategy for devices is based on cross-platform development environments, layers of software that run across operating systems, enabling the development of applications across the Nokia device range. Examples of current cross-platform layers are Web run time, Flash, Java and Open C.

Interesting acquisition. I have great respect for Nokia, but find its platform strategy confusing. It is the major partner in Symbian, the operating system used in its smart phones, but it also uses Linux, for example in its Internet Tablets like the N810. Nokia sponsors an open source development platform called Maemo, which uses the Gnome Toolkit, a competitor to Qt. I also met Nokia folk at Adobe Max in Barcelona, talking up its Flash support. The Flash player is included on all high-end Nokia mobiles.

And what's this about "applications that work in the internet"?

It is a shame to see another smart, independent company swallowed by a giant, but there could be worse homes for Qt. That said, I'd be nervous about Qt's support for Windows CE. And what will happen to Qtopia Phone Edition:

Qtopia Phone Edition is a comprehensive application platform and user interface for Linux-based mobile phones.

The releases say Nokia/Trolltech will continue to invest in Qtopia. Will it become core to Nokia's own range of devices, or sidelined? What are the implications for Symbian? Is Nokia worried about too much mobile development going to Flash?

However you spin it, it seems that Linux is ascendant at Nokia.

This article originally appeared in ITWriting.

Copyright (c) 2007, ITWriting.com.

A freelance journalist since 1992, Tim Anderson specializes in programming and internet development topics. He has columns in Personal Computer World and IT Week, and also contributes regularly to The Register. He writes from time to time for other periodicals including Developer Network Journal Online, and Hardcopy.

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