This post will be about Qt. If you are the fan of Trolltech's products or the company itself as much as I was, you will likely be astonished if you have not been yet. Today, Jan 14, the company announced they would license Qt under LGPL. Everywhere including Windows. Read the announcement here.
Qt Software (new name of Trolltech, much lacking its previous brightness, imho) management states this was a logical move after multiple years of practicing a dual model (GPL & commercial) and that it will boost further Qt proliferation. I'm shocked and excited at the same time, and this seems to be a common reaction based among the comments flooding the announcement.
My first shout the second I heard this from a colleague was "they went crazy, this will suck up their revenue". (If you are not familiar with GPL and LGPL, let me describe it in a couple of words. GPL forces you to disclose your source code, while LGPL – not, if you are using it correctly. That's why Trolls were successful in their dual model – their commercial customers preferred to buy expensive licenses, while Open Source community was supportive of GPL. I touched licensing issues in one of my previous posts).
I immediately jumped to their web-site, watched the video and read the FAQ, and then went to their blog where their VP announced it. While I was typing their url in Firefox, I kept on thinking "how will they earn their money now, home come ?". A guess popped up very quickly – Nokia (I hope you know that Nokia acquired Trolltech last year). With such a Sugar Daddy behind you, you can afford such things. Yep, that seems to be it – the video confirmed that (citation). So, is revenue no longer a concern ? Quite possibly, and Nokia rather puts a stake on Qt's farther penetration. The company intends to reinforce Open Source community's contribution by simplifying some contribution processes and introducing new web tools. Let's see if that works.
More gloomy thoughts on this. Perhaps this all makes sense for Nokia, I don't know. I am still puzzled with a business sense for it to have acquired Trolltech for amazing $153M. Neither the business strategy, nor the price did not sound reasonable for me. Have anyone clearly understood the logic supporting this deal ? I'd be interested to hear your comments. If you read Trolltech's financial statements for 2 last years (after they went public on Oslo stock exchange in 2006), you might have noticed they never reported positive net income for the period of being a public company. Why buy such a company if you can't convert it into a cash generator ? What also concerns me is lack of understanding of a long-term strategy of Nokia with respect to Qt and the company. If they give up an idea of earning money with it, what can be the next step ? Can it be that they say, OK, Qt is now fully free (as in beer and in speech), you, the Community, go and maintain it ? Here are the better procedures and tools for that. And we, at Nokia, will assign brilliant Troll developers to internal projects. Possible ? Or, after a few years when Qt is everywhere, they could say, well, that loose license model we announced in 2009 undermines our revenue too much and we have to revisit it, we are now back to the old model (GPL & commercial). Free drug trick. I hope Nokia is not (that) evil, and it has a plan. Maybe I'm too paranoid but when such sound moves happen I try to understand where a real point is. I don't see it now :-(. If you do please share, that would be really interesting.
Now back to the ground. What does today's announcement mean for us ? If you are a small or a mid-size company then I suggest that you consider transition to the LGPL licensed edition (at least I would do this). This can save you several thousands or dozens of thousands dollars a year. To stay compliant you must dynamically link with the LGPL'ed Qt library and must not strip your binaries or otherwise prevent reverse-engineering.
I myself also hope to benefit from this Troll's decision. Currently I am resurrecting own previously developed toolkit – QOLib – Qt/Open CASCADE Library – I used to develop some tools about 6 years ago with Qt3. With the LGPL'ed edition there are no more concerns that previously forced me to cautiously package the toolkit in order not to breach the former license. In this sense, I cannot but welcome today's decision. No more viral threat, Qt the Great remains.
The King is dead. Long live the King !
P.S. Typing this post using a laptop while sitting in my car at a service station waiting to change oil in the car (previous one did not let the engine start at -15C). Will upload when back home.