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Qt sees its future in Microkia

Symbian and MeeGo embers will float

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A Qt loyalist reckons that his cross-platform app and UI framework has got a bright future, even though Nokia has swallowed Microsoft's Windows Phone.

Qt ecosystem director Daniel Kihlberg, responsible for Qt sales, marketing, and services, has blogged that Qt "will continue to play and important role in Nokia".

Unfortunately, he's betting Qt's future on the past that Nokia just dumped: Symbian and MeeGo. The former was put out to pasture as a "franchise platform" for anybody actually interested in licensing Symbian, while MeeGo has become a project for "longer-term market exploration" devices, platforms, and "user experiences".

Regardless, Kihlberg reckons that Nokia must and will maintain Qt on Symbian because it needs to retain a claimed 200 million customers already using Symbian devices. Also, Nokia must hit targeted sales of 150 million more Symbian devices in "years to come."

Nokia might have wanted to hit 150 million Symbian devices in some forgotten past, but the Microsoft deal will produce "significant uncertainties" that Nokia has decided not to provide in its guidance for 2011. Translation: all the old calculations are now off.

Kihlberg also reckons there's plenty of potential for Qt on MeeGo, given Nokia plans a MeeGo handset later this year. Also, he feels, the MeeGo project will continue to be a force for disruption. "Nokia can't afford to be behind the next disruption again and Qt can play an important role in making sure it isn't," he said.

Qt was completely overlooked by Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop last week as he banked Nokia's entire smartphone future on Windows Phone.

Nokia bought Qt company Trolltech in 2008 for $153m. Back then, the handset manufacturer couldn't stop gushing about Qt, and it described the deal as something that would enable the company to innovate faster and to reduce time-to-market while also increasing the competitiveness of S60 and Series 40. This was all supposedly thanks to Trolltech's "deep understanding of open-source software and its strong technology assets".

The idea was that Qt would help Nokia's growth on devices and PCs, as apps would work on both these platforms and talk to the web. Qt worked on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and at the time, it was being ported to Windows CE and Windows Mobile - the predecessors to Windows Phone.

Nokia's pick of Microsoft, however, drastically demotes the need for, or the possibility of, any such cross-platform, device-to-PC strategy using Qt.

Microsoft dominates enough PCs to give Nokia enough of a target market, while Microsoft is also rolling out an apps marketplace, which provides Microsoft with a foot in the clouds. The third piece of the equation is mobile, with Windows Phone. The lingua franca connecting all three are apps built using a combination of Microsoft's Silverlight media player, DirectX, and .NET.

Considering that Microsoft has historically been averse to committing resources to non-Microsoft platforms and that Nokia will now rely on Microsoft to make Windows Phone run on its handsets, it's hard to believe Qt has any future at Nokia. ®

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