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Nokia Deals Google A Trolltech-Sized Blow

Posted by: Olga Kharif on January 28, 2008

Until recently, Nokia’s software efforts have been perceived as the opposite of open: closed. Sure, the world’s largest cell-phone maker has participated in open-source mobile Linux projects like remote sensing. It’s also released a few Linux-based phones. But such initiatives have been far and few between.

To write programs for Nokia smartphones, software developers have had to learn ins-and-outs of Nokia-supported Symbian operating system. Nokia has exercised much control over development and charged hefty fees. That’s why so many programmers have flocked to Google’s Android, an open-source operating system for cell phones that was announced last fall. Android is free to use, and poses few restrictions.

But now, Nokia appears to be making more steps toward going open, too. Today, the company announced it acquired Trolltech, known for its open-source mobile software. This is the strongest indication yet that Nokia is embracing open source. And that could have huge implications for the future of mobile Linux and for Android.

With Nokia's support, Trolltech's software may turn into a widely used mobile Linux platform -- and further contribute to fragmentation of the Linux developer community. There are already more than 20 flavors of Linux. Android, the strongest of the bunch, was expected to unite Linux developers. Now, however, some developers that might have jumped onto Android may stick with Nokia.

Clearly, the mobile software battle is heating up.

Reader Comments


January 29, 2008 1:41 PM

** raises a glass to Google **

Personally, I don't care if it's Google or Nokia powering my Linux mobile, as long as its a good phone.

And so far, Nokia have been average at best with Symbian ... so much promise. I welcome Googles entrance into the market. Maybe it'll stir up the competition.


January 29, 2008 1:53 PM

20? the strongest? what were you smoking?


January 29, 2008 2:08 PM

> "It’s also released a few Linux-based phones"

- wrong fact: Nokia has not released any linux-based phones. It has only released Linux "internet tablets" like N810 and its predecessors.

- wrong grammar: "It's" is a contraction for "It is" not "It has".



January 29, 2008 2:17 PM

Too bad Nokia chose the not-so-good Qt as its cross-platform toolkit. wxWidgets is so much better, and so many others are using it.


January 29, 2008 3:20 PM

"" This is the strongest indication yet that Nokia is empracing open source. ""

Embracing is spelled wrong.

Connor McCloud

January 29, 2008 3:41 PM


January 29, 2008 3:55 PM

The fault dear Brutus is not in the operating system, but in the fact that handset manufacturers are not pre-loading the best applications on their devices. It is like a PC in 1985 with no apps. Loading a touch screen phone with apps like the Phraze-It Keyboard for typing on-screen with your fingertips, and calculators and other neat apps would totally trump the open or closed operating systems issues. Nokia, Motorola, Microsoft, HP, Sony, HTC, Fujitsu should include apps that are truly useful and entertaining and then the open source becomes a moot issue. Sheeesh!

More Disappointed

January 29, 2008 3:58 PM

@ Disappointed:

Before playing the role of the grammar police you should refresh your knowledge of grammar.

It's can be used for "it has" or "it is". It is not proper to use "it's" in the possessive sense. In the article "it's" is used properly.

You would not say "Nokia uses Linux in it's phones"

also wrong

January 29, 2008 3:59 PM

"... of Nokia’s proprietary Symbian operating system"

It's not Nokia's,
Symbian is currently owned by Nokia (47.9%), Ericsson (15.6%), Sony Ericsson (13.1%), Panasonic (10.5%), Siemens AG (8.4%) and Samsung (4.5%).

I have Sony Ericsson and Motorola running the Symbian OS. Sure Nokia graphics engine to the others (S60, S70 etc), but that's not part of Symbian.

BJ Hamaker

January 29, 2008 4:29 PM


You're wrong.


January 29, 2008 4:49 PM

As far as I can recall Qt isn't opensource software its software that opensource applications use; will this be a blow for those applications. i wonder if the use and value of Qt within/to the community will actually decline because of the aquisition..


January 29, 2008 5:57 PM

Don't be stupid. In a year or less, somebody is going to come up with a runtime library that makes it possible to write-once-run-anywhere on Android *or* Symbian.


January 29, 2008 6:38 PM

empracing -> embracing

This article needs work...

As for the comment on wxWidgets vs QT... hahaha, you're joking right? wxWidgets is nowhere close to QTs level of functionality, quality, performance, etc. Or acceptance in big time apps or by big software houses.

I personally prefer Cocoa of course ;-)


January 29, 2008 8:04 PM

Incorrect Disappointed

1. contraction of it is: It's starting to rain.
2. contraction of it has: It's been a long time.



January 29, 2008 9:54 PM

Contractions should be avoided in formal writing. The author would have been better off if he wrote "it has....". This would have cost him an extra key stroke but would have bought him clarity.


January 29, 2008 10:29 PM

It appears to me that any open source linux phone, regardless of the implemented "flavor" would still allow 3rd parties to develop toolkits, widgets and applications that will inter-operate.

For example, a Flash or Flex implementation would be possible on any open source linux platform with few changes to the underlying implementation and no changes to the end Applications.
In other words, "Write once, run anywhere", which is what is needed for serious innovation and investment in the phone application software space.

Also, a Java J2ME application would likely run unchanged on either linux platform.

This is still a win-win-win situation for the phone company, the application developer and the end user. Google just legitimized the open-source Linux path and provided one reference architecture to program against.


January 29, 2008 11:13 PM

The "open-source" designation is purely academic. Using QT for commercial applications runs over $5000 per developer license. What this really does is shut out other customers of QT such as Motorola and Sony-Ericson. When a vendor buys out shared technology that always results in more fragmentation, not less; competitors will always switch to alternatives.


January 29, 2008 11:50 PM

Did I walk into a Grammar class or a half baked article? Perhaps the writer was half baked. I wish I was baked right now. Does anyone have any to share on this board? :)


January 29, 2008 11:55 PM

This reminds me of Sun open sourcing Solaris only after Linux was eating their lunch. Thanks for allowing us access to your platform only after someone came out with something better.

Open-sourcing your code only after something betters come along.. that's a padddlin'.


January 30, 2008 5:02 AM

Who cares about the grammar and spelling and facts, the issue is that Nokia has bought Troll Tech.

I think it's a question of how far Nokia are prepared to go with it. They could go all the way and potentially win on the handset front, or could dabble with some open source projects and not attract developers. Google's going all the way but Nokia are the strongest handset manufacturer.

Another question is their relationship with Symbian. How're they going to like the open source approach - I expect not much.

And whoever said it's about putting useful apps on phones - no it's not. It's about opening the field and allowing innovation to shape the future.

Thomas Kluck

January 30, 2008 9:45 AM

Sure, but can I still use it to make a phone call too?

Werner Keil

January 30, 2008 12:58 PM

On the Linux Desktop there are also at least KDE (based on Trolltech ;-) and Gnome, largely backed by Sun and other Open Source vendors.

Seems the mobile tendencies also could point to 2 or 3 major UI frameworks for the native Linux systems. If and how Mobile Java can cope with that is probably another interesting challenge, Trolltech has very little influence on.

Daniel Shugrue

January 30, 2008 1:40 PM

Symbian is an independent company. Nokia, Motorola, Ericsson and others are shareholders. S60 source code is licensed to 4 different phone manufacturers. Symbian and S60 are supported by the largest mobile development community in the world. There are over tens of thousands of 3rd party apps running on the over 100 million shipping S60-based devices.
Check out for more information.


January 30, 2008 1:43 PM

Give it a rest. I'm sure she can spell --just forgot to double check... You all can pat yourself in the back now for catching 'empracing.' now go find yourselves a gf and lose your virginity before you turn 30.

John Doe

January 30, 2008 1:55 PM

You'll make phone calls linux style:
dial 555-3225 --line=voice --ringtone=nokia.mp3 --cid=noshow --enable_hack=3 > log.txt


Hannu H

January 31, 2008 10:20 AM

Nokia made at the same time a defensive and offensive move. Acquiring Trolltech is an interesting way to secure Symbian, or if Android is taking more heat, to fight against it with Qt. And I think that programming with C++ library like Qt is way more less error-prone than with C style Gtk+. Is Nokia going to add Qt as part of its Maemo platform, it will be seen.
Cheers, Hannu

Frok Gdornwald

February 1, 2008 2:58 AM

John Doe, KDE (Qt) programs don't really look like that. they look more like Skype.


September 16, 2009 1:49 PM

I was searching for news about latest developments in the IT industries particularly concerning writing software for smart phones. I am rather disapointed to arrive at a place of 'grammar policing'.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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