Nokia Sells Qt Licensing and Services to Digia

Nokia is shedding the commercial licensing and professional services business for its Qt cross-platform app development framework, selling it off to Digia.

Digia has signed an agreement with Nokia to acquire the Qt commercial licensing and services business from the handset giant.

According to Digia, through the proposed acquisition, approximately 3,500 desktop and embedded-technology customer companies from various industries will be transferred to Digia. The transaction is expected to close by the end of March. Nokia will continue to invest in future development of Qt for the benefit of all users, both commercial and LGPL, the company said.

Nokia-following its recent agreement with Microsoft to support Windows Phone 7-had ensured developers that Qt would remain a viable development framework for applications running on Nokia phones.

The news of the sale comes on the heels of releases of Qt Quick, the new Qt SDK 1.1 beta and Qt 4.7.2. However, the Qt community will continue to benefit for years to come from further Nokia investment in Qt, primarily focused on areas such as Qt Quick, Qt WebKit and HTLM5 in addition to the ongoing work of improving performance and stability, Sebastian Nystrom, vice president and head of MeeGo, Qt and WebKit at Nokia, said in a March 7 blog post.

Digia officials said with the sale, existing and new commercial customers would benefit from the continuity of development of desktop and embedded Qt functionality and new service models. Building on Digia's leading Qt expertise, this acquisition further accelerates Digia's move toward international, product-based business and widens Digia's Qt customer base. To further strengthen its global presence, Digia will establish subsidiaries in the United States and Norway as part of the transaction.

"The success of Qt has in part been due to a successful dual-license model, providing open LGPL and commercial license alternatives, which have enabled a dynamic community of developers in 70 industries to drive a rapid evolution of the Qt cross-platform application and UI framework," Nystrom said.

Indeed, many organizations that want to use Qt for their business applications choose commercial licenses, for a variety of reasons, including restrictions in using open-source licensed software in industries such as defense and aerospace, or the need to provide product warranties and indemnities such as in the medical-device industry, Nystrom said. Others choose a commercial relationship for access to Qt professional support and services to ensure successful development of their projects, he added.

However, such professional services are not a core business for Nokia. On the other hand, with hundreds of Qt experts, Helsinki, Finland-based Digia has more than seven years' experience in providing Qt development and services, and is dedicated to continue and grow Qt Commercial relationships as well as to contribute innovation to the overall Qt LGPL and commercial community, Nystrom said

The use of Qt as an application and UI framework has been growing since Nokia's acquisition of Trolltech in 2008. The commercial customers represent a broad range of industries, including consumer electronics, finance, aviation, energy, defense and media. Qt use has increased the need for solid commercial support and services executed with strong focus. Moreover, Digia's additional investment in Qt Commercial licensing and services business on top of Nokia's significant Qt development work creates a solid foundation and an additional boost for creating business solutions with Qt, as well as an opportunity for customers to benefit from Digia services, the company said.

"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 the 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," Nystrom said in a statement. "Digia has proven, in-depth Qt expertise, operational excellence and a keen interest in growing and improving the overall Qt community, and is so-well positioned to expand the Qt Commercial licensing and services business."

"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," Harri Paani, senior vice president of Digia, said in a statement. "We also look forward to driving further the evolution of Qt by bringing in new features and services."

In addition to acquiring the business responsibility over Qt Commercial licensing and services, Digia also plans to employ 19 persons from Nokia's technical consulting services team and global Qt Commercial sales and marketing teams. The goal is to ensure that the customers will continue to deal with the people they already know.

In his post, Nystrom said:

"Although Digia will now be responsible for issuing all Qt Commercial software licenses and for providing dedicated services and support to licensees, Nokia's Qt technical support team will support and work closely with Digia for the next year. We will now begin work with Digia to ensure a smooth transition of all licenses and commercial relationships.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. Those teams will continue to be based in Norway and in the U.S., and we will work with Digia to minimize disruption to customers throughout the transition period."

Digia officials reinforced the company's intent to invest in the development of Qt as a commercial framework; in particular, the plan is to emphasize Qt in the desktop and embedded environments and to examine new support models and functionality requests. Digia also will provide commercial customers with improvements in support and functionality for older platforms that were not on the Nokia development roadmap. The holders of a Qt commercial license will be informed about the details separately.

Meanwhile, despite the sale of Qt's professional services and licensing operations, Nokia still maintains that Qt is a go-to framework for development on its platforms. Nystrom said:

"We want to emphasize our 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 upcoming 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.Overall, I expect that Qt Commercial software licensees and the entire Qt community, including all of our Qt Partners, will benefit from this change. We will continue to actively support the Qt community-including MeeGo-as we are today in activities such as active-developer engagement through our online community site, events, community sponsorship and code sprints. We will also continue to provide training materials and eLearning, Qt certification exams and enhance our Qt Partner, Qt in Education and marketing programs and much more."

As an additional benefit, this acquisition will further accelerate Digia's shift toward international, product-based business and broaden the customer base for Digia's Qt business, the company said. It also provides Digia's Enterprise Solution business a world-class offering that has strong synergy with Digia's Mobile Solution business and expertise.