Nokia Sells Qt Software Platform as It Focuses on Windows

Nokia is ending in-house software development efforts as part of a larger transition to standardizing its mobile devices on Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform.

Nokia, which continues to restructure as it increasingly leans on Microsoft€™s Windows Phone to shore up its business, is now getting out of software development by selling its Qt unit to Finnish vendor Digia.

The Qt open-source software development toolkit enables developers to create applications that can run across multiple platforms, including Microsoft€™s Windows, Apple€™s Mac OS X and Linux, as well as some mobile platforms, such as Symbian and Windows Phone.

Nokia had acquired the development framework in 2008 when it bought Trolltech, and had targeted Qt to developers to create applications for Symbian and MeeGo, an open-source mobile OS the company was developing with Intel.

However, with Nokia transitioning to the Windows Phone operating system for its mobile devices, and the bulk of mobile development happening on Apple€™s iOS and Google€™s Android platforms, Nokia€™s need for the Qt technology quickly waned. Software maker Digia last year bought parts of Qt, and executives said they were planning to expand the reach of Qt€™s support, including in the mobile space.

Digia officials said they plan to enable Qt to support Andoird, iOS and Windows 8.

€œBy adding this world class organization to our existing team we plan to build the next generation leading cross-platform development environment.€ Tommi Laitinen, senior vice president for international products at Digia, said in a statement. €œNow is a good time for everyone to revisit their perception of Qt. Digia€™s targeted R&D investments will bring back focus on Qt€™s desktop and embedded platform support, while widening the support for mobile operating systems.€

As many as 125 Qt workers will be transistioned from Nokia to Digia, the companies said.

For Nokia, the sale of the Qt business is the latest step to reverse the fortunes of the one-time dominant mobile-device vendors. Nokia€™s business began to slip when Apple introduced the first iPhone in 2007, and its strategy to offer apps aimed at the device. The impact of the iPhone€”and subsequent devices running Android€”has been significant, with Nokia losing market share and market value, slashing payroll and shutting facilities in hopes of stemming the financial losses.

Nokia€™s story arc is similar to that of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, which also has seen its sales and market share sharply reduced in the face of competition from iPhone and Android devices.

CEO Stephen Elop last year opted to bet the company€™s future on Microsoft€™s Windows Phone platform, choosing to phase out other operating system efforts, including Symbian and MeeGo. So far, that move has done little to halt Nokia€™s slide. According to analyst at IDC, while Samsung and Apple both saw mobile device sales jump in the second quarter, Nokia sales fell by almost 40 percent. Meanwhile, its market share fell to 6.6 percent, down from 15.4 percent during the same time last year.

IDC analysts said much of the fall was due to Nokia discontinuing Symbian and transitioning to Windows Phone. ID analyst Ramon Llamos said Nokia did well selling its Lumia line of Windows Phone 7 smartphones, but that the company needs to do more to make inroads into the market share leads of the iPhone and Android devices.

€œNokia is going to clearly be the leader [in Windows Phone] with 4 million units shipped,€ Llamos said last month, noting that as good as Windows Phone 7 is, Windows Phone 8 should be even better when it€™s released in the fall. €œBut they have to win at the critical point of sale [in the store] and they are not winning it.€

Nokia officials said last month that in the second quarter, the company doubled the sales of Lumia smarpthones, from 2 million in first quarter to 4 million, and that its cash reserves, at $5.15 billion, were better than analysts had expected. However, Nokia also lost about $1.88 billion in the quarter.

The sale of the Qt business is part of the continuing transformation of Nokia, and officials seem happy to find a home for the development platform.

"We are pleased that we've been able to work with Digia to secure continued development of Qt by the current core team," Sebastian Nystrom, head of Nokia Strategy, said in a statement. "Digia's plans to acquire Qt mean that it can continue as a successful open source project and also offer continuing employment for many people in the community."

No financial details of the deal were disclosed.

Nokia officials on Aug. 9 also said they making another deal, this time selling more than 500 patents and patent applications to Vringo, a mobile technologies developer. The patents€”109 of them in the United States€”touch on a host of technologies related to cellular infrastructure, such as communication management, data and signal transmission, mobility management, radio resources management and services.

Vringo will pay Nokia cash as well as some ongoing revenues generated by the patents.