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Editor's Note: Not a Typical Troll Tale
On the Horizon: Qt/Embedded
August 21, 2000
Over the last few years one of the most vilified companies in the Linux space has been TrollTech , creators of Qt. Qt, as you'll recall, is a key technology in KDE, serving as the library-level basis for both KDE and KDE apps.
TrollTech has been vilified by the Free Software community--i.e., the Free Software Foundation and later the Debian organizers--for not releasing Qt initially under the GPL. While undoubtedly TrollTech made some mistakes, the reaction among the Free Software crowd has continued to be shrill and out of proportion to any complaints they may have. Plus, it's hard to stay mad at a bunch of round-faced Norwegians, which (judging by some time spent at the TrollTech booth at the recent LinuxWorld Expo) seem to make up a good chunk of TrollTech employees.
Despite the attacks by the Free Software crowd, TrollTech has managed to grow (there are now 40 TrollTech employees, and the privately held firm recently attracted $8.5 million in venture capital) and become a central player in the world of Linux development tools, first with Qt and now with two new exciting developments: Qt/Designer and an embedded version of Qt.
Linux Today's Paul Ferris and I sat down with TrollTech CEO Haavard Nord at LinuxWorld Expo, fresh on the heels of the announcement regarding the formation of the GNOME Foundation. GNOME is built on different technology--the GTK+ programming libraries--and thus poses a competitive threat to Qt: as the fortunes of GNOME rise and fall, so do the fortunes of GTK.
Despite this, Nord was gracious regarding the GNOME Foundation. "It's good for the Linux community that Linux development is being embraced by the business community," Nord said. "Really, it all boils down to this: if you like C, you'll like GTK+, and if you like C++, you'll like Qt. It's all politics.
"KDE will have a long and successful life, but in many ways our success isn't tied to KDE: we have a simple business plan that calls for the development of cross-platform application builders," he added, while noting that TrollTech's new initiatives have nothing to do with KDE. QT/Designer is a user-interface design tool that works across multiple OSes and toolkits. And like many in the Linux space--including Linux founder Linus Torvalds--Nord believes that a prime component of Linux's future lies in embedded Linux, and TrollTech is making a move into that space through deals with mobile-phone manufacturer Ericsson.
"We saw a year ago that embedded Linux was going to be a hot area," Nord said. While most work in embedded Linux has occurred on the text and underlying-technology side, TrollTech's tools will be geared more toward interface issues and acting basically as a substitute for X. In addition, TrollTech is providing technology to Borland/Inprise's upcoming Kylix development tool.
"X is really too fat to be considered for use in the embedded space," he said. "We don't think that makes sense." It was clear that if nothing else Nord was a man committed to common sense, which means that the company's viability shouldn't hinge on the success or failure of KDE--and in this age of monochromatic business plans, this is good news indeed for the firm.