More downsizing and rationalizing from troubled handset maker Nokia. Today, Finnish software company Digia, which bought the Qt commercial licensing operation from Nokia a year ago, announced that it would buy the remainder of Nokia’s Qt business. Qt is an open source development platform that Digia plans to “quickly enable” to be used in Android, iOS and Windows 8 environments. The deal includes the transfer of software, technologies and 125 employees in Oslo, Norway and Berlin, Germany.
The companies are not yet revealing a price at this stage, a spokesperson told TechCrunch. But a report at Reuters notes that it is just a “fraction” of the $150 million that Nokia paid in 2008 for Trolltech, the open source platform where Qt originated, which is what TechCrunch has heard, too. The Qt platform has been used by some 450,000 developers to date, mainly to develop software with a graphical interface. Digia says it is used across 70 industries in addition to mobile, including automotive, medical, and defense.
Nokia and Digia have actually been working together on Qt since 2011, when Digia acquired the Qt commercial licensing and professional services business from Nokia. That division is called Qt Commercial.
Why the offload, exactly? Nokia is making huge cost cuts as it continues to restructure its business — during its Q2 earnings the company noted that restructuring charges for the next two years will be in the region of €1.9 billion ($2.35 billion), so there is that. But in addition to that, the company has made Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform the basis of its smartphone strategy, and that has pulled it away from development platforms like Qt, which was largely used for Symbian development.
When Nokia sold the commercial licensing division last year, it had said it would continue to support Qt’s licensing activities for at least a year during transition, and that’s what it has done. However, as more belt tightening has taken place at Nokia, it seems that it has reversed course on another part of its strategy. In March 2011 Nokia noted: “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.”
Today’s news more or less removes Nokia from the Qt equation, however: “Nokia is proud of the contributions we’ve made to Qt over the past four years. We are pleased that we’ve been able to work with Digia to secure continued development of Qt by the current core team,” said Sebastian Nyström, head of Nokia Strategy, 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.”
A spokesperson tells TechCrunch that from a deal standpoint Nokia will still be responsible for Qt until the deal closes — which should be in Q3, most likely in September. “From that point onwards the main responsibility will be with Digia,” he added.
Nokia still has a lot of legacy handsets in the market, however, running Symbian (and to a much smaller extent MeeGo); so given that apps are developed for Symbian on Qt there will still be some connection between the two. As for the future, Digia says it does not know whether Nokia will continue to support further Symbian handsets on Qt.
Looking ahead, Digia says that it will be investing in R&D for Qt “expanding its reach on many more platforms than ever before” and use it for its own international expansion. Digia notes that the commercial operation it bought over a year ago has “grown substantially” and will have a positive impact on 2012 revenues.
Perhaps most importantly, Digia will continue to keep Qt open source while developing the commercial part of the business and is trying to reach out to developers to do that. Open source activities will be centered around this site; commercial activities here.
“Now 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,” said Tommi Laitinen, SVP, International Products, Digia, in a statement.