Digia to acquire commercial licensing and professional services arm of Qt

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Digia, a Finnish software company, has signed an agreement with Nokia to acquire the commercial licensing and professional services arm of Nokia's Qt. The major portion of Qt, including all core development and LGPL licensing remains with Nokia. Nokia plans to continue to invest in the future development of Qt, which remains core to its Symbian (150 million additional devices) and MeeGo (future disruptions) activities. The acquisition is expected to close by the end of the month; neither company are disclosing cost details.

The move will provide reassurance to Qt Commercial Licensees who understandably felt that mobile was a more important focus for Nokia than desktop and embedded based solutions (the areas in which the majority of these licensees operate). It also makes it very clear that Nokia is committed to the future development of Qt. By signing this agreement with Digia, together with existing activities around Qt open contribution and governance, Nokia is signalling its intention to continue to develop Qt, while also providing a feasible and sustainable way for other companies to build products and solutions around the Qt framework.

Qt licensing and professional services

For commercial development Qt is currently available under two licenses: the Qt Commercial Developer License ('paid') and the Qt GNU LGP 2.1 License ('free'). The LGPL option was added two years ago, following on from Nokia's acquisition of Trolltech and reflected Nokia's desire to encourage uptake of Qt.

The Qt Commercial Developer License, which originated as a revenue generator prior to Nokia's acquisition of Trolltech, is used by more than 3,500 companies worldwide and estimated to be around 5% of commercial Qt development (percentage of licensees). This is because it is not feasible or acceptable to use an open source license (LGPL) in some industries (e.g. aerospace and defence) for business reasons or because of the need to provide product warranties (e.g. pharmaceutical and medical). Complimentary to the commercial licensing is the professional services business, which provides technical support to Qt licensees.

It is worth noting that commercial development based on the LGPL license, which is estimated to be around 95% of commercial Qt developer activity, is unaffected by this announcement. This includes almost all of the developers working on Symbian and MeeGo applications. Nokia remains the driving force behind Qt and it's core development and will continue to provide Qt through the LGPL license.

However both commercial licensing and professional services are not considered a core business for Nokia. Qt is an enabling technology for Nokia, rather than a revenue generator. Nokia made a similar move when it acquired Symbian in 2009; it sold the Symbian Professional Services unit to Accenture.

As a result of this announcement nineteen Nokia employees from the Oslo and Silicon Valley offices will be transferring to Digia to provide a continuity of services with existing customers. They are drawn from the current Qt sales and marketing team and Nokia technical services team and represent less than 10% of the Qt workforce. 

Digia will takeover responsibility for commercial licensing and professional services for both new and existing customers. Furthermore it will provide continuity of development for desktop and embedded Qt functionality and will look to create new service models. This is likely to include support for porting Qt to platforms that were not on Nokia's Qt roadmap. This will compliment Nokia's on-going Qt development, which has a mobile focus. It is very likely that Digia will contribute elements back into Qt as part of Qt's open contribution and governance model.

Nokia remains committed to on-going development of Qt. It plays a vital role for the Symbian platform where it is the primary development environment and will be the enabling technology for a number of software and user interface updates that are expected to arrives in the next 12 months. Similarly Qt is the underlying technology for user experience and developers in Nokia's first MeeGo device, which is expected to ship later this year. MeeGo and Qt will be the key technologies in the third pillar of Nokia's overall software strategy, which is designed to address future disruptions.

Sebastian Nyström, Vice President, Head of MeeGo, Qt and Webkit at Nokia:

"Qt continues to be an important technology for Nokia and it is critical that Qt's growth and success can continue. While Nokia will continue to invest in developing Qt as a cross-platform framework for mobile, desktop and embedded segments, focusing on open source development and expansion, we wanted a partner who can drive the commercial licensing and services business around Qt. Digia has proven, in-depth Qt expertise, operational excellence and a keen interest in growing and improving the overall Qt community and so well positioned to expand the Qt Commercial licensing and services business."

Harri Paani, Senior Vice President from Digia:

"We are excited to extend our Qt business to serve our new customers. Building on our in-depth Qt expertise and experience from demanding mission critical solutions, we will offer world-class commercial licensing and support services to Qt Commercial customers. We also look forward to driving further the evolution of Qt by bringing in new features and services."

Further information is available on the Qt Labs Blog and on Digia's website.