TrollTech CEO Haavard Nord on Qt 3.3, Qtopia, .NET/Mono, Linux, More

On Monday, OSNews had the pleasure of talking face to face with Trolltech‘s CEO and founder, Haavard Nord. Mr Nord discussed with us the new features found in Qt 3.3 (download, changes, announcement), Qtopia and the arising market of Linux in mobile phones as well as in the business computer market. Update: ITManagersJournal hosts a Trolltech article as well.Qt 3.3

Haavard Nord The new version is backwards compatible with the previous Qt 3.x releases and it adds support for the .NET Windows platform. Developers will be able to write Qt code using any .NET-supported language and will also be able to embed Qt elements in other programs. Other Windows changes include full support for XP’s Style and theming while a version of ActiveX for Qt, ActiveQt, also sports improvements. The other major new feature on Qt 3.3 is full support (tested and supported) for 64bit platforms, including Opteron, Itanium and Apple G5.

Other new features include support for IPv6 and backend support for two more databases, SQL-lite and Borland Interbase. The Macintosh version now has support for fully transparent windows, while there have been some locale additions and changes, while QSA 1.1 features a number of improvements.

Qt/Linux discussion with Haavard Nord, Trolltech’s CEO

Mr Nord discussed a number of issues of broad computing interest. He told us that despite what some people say, X is good enough to promote the Linux desktop and it’s getting better and better, and with time will close the gap to Windows. He believes that Linux already works well in the corporate/business market (e.g. in China, Germany, some schools already utilize Linux) and that by the Longhorn release in 2005, Linux will be even more fit for the competition. He foresees though that Linux will have mostly have problems expanding with gamers rather than with normal home users.

Three years ago there were only 3-5% commercial Qt developers developing for Linux, but now this number is up to 40%. This has made Trolltech shift focus towards Linux as the main “Unix/X11” platform supported by Qt, along to Windows and Mac. While platforms like Solaris, IRIX, *BSDs, HP-UX and AIX are still supported, Linux is now the main X11-Qt focus. Additionally, he noted that while a port of VxWorks or QNX could be possible if these companies were interested in a port (for the right amount of money of course, as maintaining these ports is costly), their main focus will continue to be Linux in the embedded systems, and Windows/Linux for workstations.

It is well known that the main “application” of Qt on Linux is KDE (many of the core KDE developers are Trolltech employees), we were told that Trolltech has no desire to control the popular desktop project, but to peacefully co-exist and let it evolve freely. In the meantime, Trolltech continues to work for full interoperability with GTK+ in many levels.

Mr Nord noted that Trolltech works pretty closely with Apple (Apple which seeks more application support from Windows developers and so they are happy to feature another C++ API in their platform). There is at least one developer (out of the 87 Trolltech employees) working actively with Apple at Trolltech’s offices in Palo Alto, CA, USA.

Trolltech is definitely hot about .NET on Windows but they are not so hot about it on Linux. They have discussed a few times binding with either Portable.NET or Mono, but the fear of a possible Microsoft lawsuit on these projects has held off any plans to go for either (the Qt# project on Sourceforge is effectively dead). However, Mr Nord said that the legal issues are just a part; there are also some technical challenges which would make a well-supported Qt# environment difficult to create.

PDAs and Mobile Phones

Qtopia Phone Edition is derived from Qtopia for PDAs, and while a lot of code is the same, the infrastructure, features and hardware support is different. Trolltech is expected to have a new Qtopia UI for mobile phones out in a couple of months (minimum supported resolution is at 176×208). Trolltech would like to stay “application-agnostic” on their embedded targets, and so they won’t specifically pursue ports of Qt applications, in order to leave the field open to third party developers. For example, they won’t specifically pursue porting Konqueror as there are already Opera and Access’ NetFront web browser ports running on top of Qt.

Mr Nord told us that he is happy with the way Qtopia is placed in the market because vendors currently don’t want to license the whole Symbian proprietary system (Qtopia runs on Linux and so the system underneath is open) while at the same time they decline Microsoft’s offers as they don’t want to strengthen Microsoft’s position in the phone market. This opens the doors for Trolltech and Linux to get into this market fast: some Linux phones are close to release in China, and very soon in Korea and Japan. In two years Mr Nord sees these phones in Europe and after that is USA’s turn.

We asked Mr Nord when he sees today’s Smartphones (just 3% of the mobile phone market today) becoming common hardware and running Qt and Linux and he said that this time is around 2007 or 2008. By that time, he said, most phones will be shipping with 8 MB Flash and so Qt should run in most of them easily.

Mr Nord also spoke of Java on phones and he already sees a trend of phone OEMs getting away from Java because either the VMs are just not fast enough, interoperability issues with different J2ME versions, UI problems, etc.

Qtopia Phone Edition will feature special extra function calls so that developers would be able to call bluetooth, camera and other hardware functionality through Qt, hence making portability across different phone versions or models easier. Additionally, it will include new usability features, especially concerning the phone’s button usage making the usage easier and faster.

Mr Nord told us that Sharp is now the No1 PDA provider in Japan selling Zaurus with Qt/Embedded, however he sees the PDA market declining overall, giving way to affordable SmartPhones that have PDA capabilities (or PDAs with full phone capabilities, high resolutions — a new emerging kind of devices that will be more common in 2-3 years).


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