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Digia gives Android and iOS devs a chance to get Qt

One library to rule at least 14 of them

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App and UI framework Qt is finally coming to Android and iOS in the form of Qt Mobile Edition, allowing cross-platform apps to take their GUI from desk to pocket for only $150 a month.

Unveiled at the Qt Developer Days in Berlin, the Mobile Edition provides everything the Qt developer needs to get apps onto mobile devices – or it will when it launches in December as part of Qt 5.2. But platform independence costs: in Qt's case, $149 per developer seat per month.

It's not the first time Qt has been squeezed onto a mobile platform. The application framework was developed by Trolltech in the '90s for desktop use, but was appearing in handsets as far back as 2000 and pushed as a platform in 2006 before being adopted, and acquired, by Nokia in 2008 as the unifying platform for its increasingly-fragmented smartphone efforts.

Sadly, that platform was one of those fingered for the chop by incoming Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, and was unceremoniously dumped on Digia, who had been licensing the framework for desktop use and was thus the only company likely to do anything useful with it.

There was a lone developer who took the open-source version of Qt and started beating it into an Android shape under the "Necessitas" moniker, but they threw the code Digia's way in November last year.

Qt, on desktop, has an active user base of around half a million, funding a business worth about €20m a year. Apps including the ever-popular VideoLAN media player and Mathematica were developed using Qt, and now should be able to move to mobile with the minimum of effort, if they weren't there already.

Digia admits that the Android and iOS ports, which are already present as a Technology Preview, will most likely appeal to existing users of Qt. However, they might encourage new developers to explore the framework and perhaps achieve their dream of cross-platform compatibility, which Java, JavaScript, HTML, GTK+, Juce, Mono, Tcl/Tk, and so many others have failed to properly realise. ®

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