Nokia, in a strategically significant move, has announced that it will add a LGPL 1.4 (Lesser General Public License) open source licensing option for the Qt UI and application framework from the release of Qt 4.5, which is scheduled for March 2009. The new licensing is more permissive as it allows the use of Qt for proprietary commercial development at no cost, thus offering greater flexibility to developers. Read on for more.
Nokia will also be changing Qt's development method to make it more transparent. The source code will be available in a publicly accessible Git repository. Consequently this will make it easier for third parties to contribute directly to the improvement and development of Qt.
Nokia intends to use Qt as the a cross platform (Symbian, Series 40, Maemo and Web [PC]) development framework in its ongoing software and service strategy. Qt is a strategically important asset for Nokia, but it is demonstrating its commitment to open source by opening it up for wider commercial usage.
Nokia will lose some revenues (although commercial licenses of Qt will still be available), but these are likely to be offset by greater community contributions and the de facto benefits of wider adoption of the Qt application framework. With the open sourcing of Symbian and license changes to Qt Nokia clearly feel there are significant business advantages in adopting an open source strategy. The two key software assets and its contributions to other open source projects, such as WebKit, make Nokia a very important player in the open source software space.
"Broader use of Qt by even more leading companies will result in valuable feedback and increased contributions, ensuring that Qt remains the best-in-class, cross-platform UI and application framework. The accelerated development of Qt will allow developers, including Nokia, to deliver better devices and applications, reduce time to market and enable a wider deployment base for their solutions," said Sebastian Nyström, Vice President, Qt Software, Nokia.
"Nokia is making significant contributions to open source communities through ongoing work with Qt, its contribution of Symbian OS and S60 to the Symbian Foundation and open development of the Maemo platform," said Kai Öistämö, Executive Vice President, Devices, Nokia. "By moving to LGPL, opening Qt's source code repositories and encouraging more contributions, Qt users will have more of a stake in the development of Qt, which will in turn encourage wider adoption. Nokia will be able to leverage improvements in Qt across S60 on Symbian OS, Maemo and OVI services without rewriting the source code."
The cross platform development environment is a hot area and the move to LGPL further reaffirms Qt's leadership in this space.
Incidentally the news also strengthens KDE's position compared to GNOME in the Linux desktop market. Furthermore the KDE / Qt combination could potentially itself become an important cross platform environment in the desktop world. In general the move will also please the free software movement, from whom there was some uncertainty after Nokia's acquisition of Trolltech, as it moves Qt fully towards the open source ideal.
Here is a video in which Vice President Nokia, Qt Software Sebastian Nyström (see also this entry on his blog) and Trolltech Co-Founder Eirik Chambe-Eng discuss what adding the LGPL means for Qt.