Sale of Qt marks end of Nokia's software efforts
Finnish firm now entirely reliant on Windows as it offloads virtually all its OS and developer framework projects
Published: 9 August, 2012
Nokia has finally abandoned any attempt to retain its software independence with the sale of the rest of its Qt unit to Digia. The Finnish developer had already acquired the Qt licensing framework last year, and now takes on the rest of the business, joining Jolla and several other Finnish specialists in seizing Nokia's cast-offs.
The troubled handset maker has been steadily shutting down inhouse operating system and software platform projects as it steps up its costcutting program. It has stopped active work on two Linux-based OSs - MeeGo and a replacement for the Series 40 featurephone system, Meltemi, and of course Symbian is close to its end. Start-ups and former Nokia executives are picking up some of the pieces - like Jolla, which is developing MeeGo-based devices - but Nokia has given up the last vestiges of software independence, and become fully dependent on Microsoft.
That saves it the cost and risk of inhouse developments and gives it access to the Windows developer base and R&D/marketing resources. But it also makes it subject to Microsoft's whims - as when the software giant decided not to make its new WP8 upgrade backwards compatible with WP7, the engine for Nokia's Lumia flagships; or when it decided to launch its own tablet, in competition with its own OEMs (and might even do a smartphone in future).
Though new Nokia chairman Risto Siilasmaa said in June that the firm had a 'plan B' should the Windows Phone strategy fail, the words sound hollow now, with Nokia firmly stuck with Windows and the ageing S40.
When Nokia acquired Trolltech at the start of 2008, gaining a powerful multiplatform developer framework and Linux expertise, it seemed that the Finn was serious about becoming, as then-CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo had pledged, a web software company with devices on the side. Trolltech brought a well respected development framework geared to mobile devices, open source and web services, accelerating Nokia's fledgling efforts to push Series 60 and S40 towards openness and the web.
Even when Nokia adopted WP7, there was still the lingering hope that it might harness Qt, whose engineers had put so much into MeeGo, for a multi-OS strategy, resting on its Linux-based activities as well as Windows and so retaining the ability to target many sectors, and replace Symbian quickly.
But Qt is gone. Last year, Nokia sold the commercial licensing and services aspects of the business to Digia, and moved the platform and its development to an open governance model - also the fate of the residual MeeGo efforts. Nokia insisted Qt would remain the development framework for Symbian, and would be part of its "future disruptions strategy", an initiative to develop experimental and next generation gadgets. This program appears to have become a casualty of recent massive job cuts.
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