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Embedded Development on the Qt - page 2

An Interview with Trolltech CEO Haavard Nord

  • February 13, 2003
  • By Robert McMillan

LP: Within your dual licensing scheme, you guys switched to the GPL about three years ago, right?

Nord: I think it was about two and a half years ago.

LP: It seems that before you adopted the GPL, you had some of the same concerns as Sun.

Nord: What we were concerned about was if we did a GPL version of Qt, that someone would take this GPL version and make an alternative incompatible version of Qt.

LP: Which is Sun's concern with Java. So how has the GPL worked out for you?

Nord: Our experience with the GPL has been simply tremendous. We have not seen any such thing as a fork. The open source community has been extremely supportive of our GPL licensing. We get lots of good bug reports; we get contributions; sometimes major contributions such as Unicode support, from one developer. But I've never seen any attempt to do any fork.

LP: Why is that?

Nord: First of all, because we have such a staff of engineers developing Qt, that if there's a need to implement new features in Qt, we do it. If we had stopped developing Qt, then there would have certainly been a fork. But this is a good thing for the community, because if we were to stop developing the product, there is an insurance that somebody else could take over.

LP: With additions like the recent SQL module, it seems like Qt is becoming more than a GUI toolkit. Where do you see Qt going over the next five years.

Nord: We have a number of customers who have already said that they don't think of Qt as a GUI toolkit; they think of it as a development framework. One developer named Rainer Goebel in Holland has built an application called http://www.brainvoyager.de/">Brain Voyager for displaying real time MRI data. It takes a lot more than just a library of widgets to build that software, and so the fact that there are file access classes, networking classes, database APIs that are platform independent, these are things that are clearly moving Qt out of what was a very useful niche, and into something that's even bigger.

LP: So what would be Qt 4.0 features?

Nord: First, we are not trying to bloat Qt with features. What we first try to do is see if there are parts within Qt we can rewrite to make it smaller and even more efficient. We think that this may be our most important job. Secondly, we're looking at what are the trends in the software development industry. Over the next few years we will continue adding functionality to Qt, but we will do it in loadable modules.

LP: Right, but do you have any examples of the kind of loadable modules you'd like to have in 4.0.

Nord: I don't really have that, no.

LP: There were Qtopia-enabled PDAs based on the AMD and PowerPC processors at LinuxWorld Expo this year. What about Intel? Are you doing anything with them?

Nord: We're also working closely with Intel. One thing that is a tremendous benefit of embedded Linux is that it's very easy to target your reference platform to different types of hardware, when it comes to CPUs or types of display or input devices.

LP: So Intel has a reference platform that includes Qt Embedded and Qtopia right now?

Nord: I'm not sure of the status of this, so I'm not sure I can comment right now.

LP: So you're working with Intel, but there's nothing that's been announced?

Nord: I wouldn't say so.

LP: What about the port of Mozilla to the Qt Toolkit, QT Scope? What's happening with that? Is Trolltech committing any resources to this?

Nord: I was actually one of the seven people on the initial team creating that port. The reason we did that was to demonstrate the capabilities of the Qt toolkit, and also to give the community some code.

LP: So are you maintaining it now?

Nord: No we are not involved in that.

LP: Why not?

Nord: Because our job is really to focus on the framework, and also to focus on Qtopia. We think that Qtopia together with the IBM reference platform is very important for the embedded or consumer device industry. That's really our focus.

Nord: The phone is probably the most important area, but you will also see it in cars, in home appliances -- you know, kitchen devices -- you will continue to see it in PDAs. But the phone is probably the largest area where embedded Linux and Qt will make an impact.

I expect that you'll see some use from Japan. The industry in Japan is in transition. Previously they had been working with a proprietary operating system from �ITRON, but going forward, their devices need more sophisticated functionality. They need to Web browse, they need Internet connectivity, and �ITRONis not really up to delivering that. And this is where embedded Linux will play a major role. Not only in Japan. We are also seeing the same trend in China and India, and Europe -- basically a who's who in the consumer electronics industry.

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