Nokia adopts LGPL for Qt popularity

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Nokia will release the next major version of Qt under a fourth license - LGLP - in its mission to drive uptake of the cross-platform interface framework.

The mobile phone giant is expected today to announce that Qt 4.5, due in March, will be released under Lesser GNU Public License 2.1 in addition to the General Public License (GPL) - versions two and three - and a commercial license.

The idea is to woo partners by offering what it considers a commercial friendly (but non-company specific) license in the wake of Nokia's acquisition of Qt author Trolltech last year.

Sebastian Nystrom, Nokia's vice president of Qt software, told The Reg that Qt 4.5 is the first major release of Qt since that acquisition. The cross-platform toolkit and framework for building interfaces and devices will see improved support for the WebKit open-source project for improved HTML and JavaScript performance in the browser.

He said version 4.5 represented a "good time" to start accelerating uptake of Qt.

Nystrom said the LGPL would appeal to companies that want to build using Qt and to release code using an open-source model without having to subscribe to GPL, while also avoiding becoming tied into a single company through the terms of Qt's commercial license.

According to Nystrom, the open-source model would let companies working with Qt benefit from community bug fixes and patches in specific industrial sectors, whether it's a desktop or a mobile device. This will let companies bring Qt-based mobile and desktop products to market faster than they could otherwise manage, he reckoned.

"All the feature complexity of the bigger development and UI framework like Qt get sorted out so the functionality comes quicker to the product," Nystrom said.

Why's Nokia being so benevolent?

Qt is a popular development framework and development kit that Nokia's trying to establish further. Nokia wants to establish Qt as a framework that spans desktop and mobile application development, while also making it easier to write applications for different mobile devices using a single development framework and code base.

Qt already supports Linux, Windows and OS X on the desktop, and OpenMoko's ASU and Nokia's Maemo, used on Nokia Internet Tablet, on mobile. Qt is used in the KDE desktop environment, the Opera browser, Google Earth, Skype, and Adobe Systems' Photoshop Album.

Nokia, though, needs greater buy-in to the Nokia ecosystem of mobile devices and would no doubt like to tap the trend for rich internet applications (RIAs) running unaltered on desktop systems and mobile devices. That's something Adobe Systems is working on using AIR and through the Open Screen Project, and that Microsoft has expressed an interest in - but yet to deliver on - with its Silverlight browser-based media player.

Late last year, Nokia released a developer preview of Qt for its S60 Symbian-based device. Qt for S60 will be available in the second quarter of this year.

Symbian growth, though, has been slowing while developers have become fascinated by the iPhone and Linux on mobile. Nokia last year announced it's open sourcing Symbian, having bought out other partners in the Symbian consortium to take control over its direction

With that in mind, the decision to introduce another to Qt license - a license Nokia believes confers freedom on potential commercial partners and should ease concerns over single-vendor tie in - should be seen as something Nokia believes will bring more software partners to Qt and to the Nokia ecosystem.

Those partners can come either by building for the Symbian S60, Qt in general, or building applications that span mobile devices and desktop machines. ®

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