Nokia drops commercial Qt services

Sells commercial licensing, support arm to Digia

The aftershocks of Nokia's surprise deal with Microsoft to move forward with Windows Phone as Nokia's primary mobile platform continued today with the announcement that Nokia has sold the commercial branch of its Qt business to Finnish software services company Digia.

Well, that didn't take long.

The announcement, which appeared on the Qt blog this morning, was nicely spun as yet another great opportunity to enhance the growth of Qt. I'm not so sure the Qt community will see it in quite that way. More likely they will see it for what it is: Nokia's new partner bullying out any non-Windows codebase.

As for existing Qt customers? Well, you just got a new throat to choke. Whether you wanted it or not.

Let's be clear: Nokia hasn't sold the entirety of Qt. They will still retain the copyrights, and will continue the core development of the software library's code.

Qt is a dual-licensed project, with free use licensed under the LGPL, and commercial use for Qt's 3,500 commercial customers (a number touted by Nokia). But, Nokia's Sebastian Nyström stated in today's blog, the commercial licenses sales of Qt "are not core business activities for Nokia, so since the introduction of the LGPL license for Qt in 2009 we have been actively working to grow the number of companies providing Qt services."

In other words, let's let someone else handle the small stuff.

Nokia won't just cut Qt services and support loose at the end of March when the deal takes effect.

"As part of the agreement, some members of Nokia’s technical consulting services team, as well as members of the Nokia Qt Commercial sales and marketing team will transition to Digia, ensuring continuity of contacts for customers," Nyström wrote.

Meanwhile, Nyström emphasized Nokia's "long-term commitment to Qt."

"Nokia will drive Qt developments in support of our business needs and our investments in community building, marketing and R&D will continue to benefit all members of the Qt community. By introducing the up-coming open governance model we will also enable other companies, such as Digia, to more easily contribute to Qt, which will enrich Nokia investments in Qt and benefit and grow the Qt community as a whole," he wrote.

Although the terms of the deal were not disclosed, there has to be some kind of revenue sharing model going on, because Nokia must certainly be getting a cut of Digia's new Qt revenue if they really plan to continue to contribute so actively to Qt in the days ahead.

But, if Qt commercial services and support were not a "core business" for Nokia, how much less revenue will they be getting if Digia's taking a large piece of the Qt commercial pie?

One answer may be the savings Nokia will get by either removing or redistributing the existing Qt services and support staff. A straight layoff of this team would be bad, of course, but great for Nokia's bottom line while appeasing its new pals in Redmond. Hopefully the solution will be a redistribution into the company's new Windows Phone services and support team.

$Deity knows Nokia's going to need help in that department soon.

With revenue from Qt presumably lessened no matter what Nokia does with the in-house Qt support team, it begs the question: how long will Nokia want to keep its commitment to Qt going? I'm thinking not much longer, although honestly I could also see them hedging their bets and holding on to Qt just in case Windows Phone bombs on their devices.

Snarkiness aside, this is a troubling bit of news for the Qt community. I know Nokia is only one contributor in a broader Qt community, but it's the big contributor and holder of the Qt copyright. In light of recent faux pas in the Hudson community about copyright, it's definitely an issue of concern.

More by Brian Proffitt:
Red Hat Defends Kernel Code Obfuscation
Jenkins Defends Split from Oracle's Hudson
What would you do with Open.org?

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