Qt hot potato spun out from Digia into fourth home

After mere two years, Finnish company Digia has decided to spin out its Qt business to allow it to bring together its commercial and open source arms.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Qt, a popular cross-platform application framework, is to be spun out into its own company after its current owners, Finnish company Digia, decided it was time to unite Qt's commercial and open source activities under a single roof.

Writing in a blog post, Qt chief architect Lars Knoll said a disconnect existed between its open source project and its commercial side, which made it hard for Qt to speak with a single voice.

"Even though the open source project and the commercial side of Qt are highly dependent upon each other, they have over the last years drifted apart," he wrote.

"In the long term, this split is helping nobody. The fragmentation actually weakens our ecosystem and makes it difficult to position Qt against competing technologies and tools."

"Because of the separation between the open source and commercial offerings, we often end up competing against ourselves instead of competing against other technologies"

Knoll said that the main contributors to Qt had agreed to the plan in June, with the "first pieces coming together" before the Qt 5.4 release due in October.

In Digia's Q1 results report (PDF), the Qt part of the business saw sales grow by 20 percent to a total of €4.8 million for the quarter.

Overall though, Qt posted an operating loss over the period of €0.9 million, with Digia citing "business growth investments" as a reason for the lack of profit. Digia expects the Qt business to post annual sales growth of 6.5 percent, and an operating profit increase of 5.3 percent.

Within Digia, Qt makes up 20 percent of the company.

Once Qt becomes its own business again, it will be the fourth home for the application framework.

Originally developed in the early 1990s by Haavard Nord and Eirik Chambe-Eng, who would go on to found the first long-term home for Qt in the form of Trolltech, Qt became the property of Nokia in 2008 when the handset maker purchased Trolltech for €104 million.

After buying the commercial rights to Qt in 2011, Digia acquired all other Qt assets in 2012.

Despite being an open source project, Knoll said Digia was currently responsible for covering 85 percent of the costs of developing Qt.

Although Knoll said that the new company would remain entirely owned by Digia, the Finnish company later said its reorganisation did not constitute a spin out.

"Qt has not been spun off. Digia has made an internal organization of assets and subsidiaries and Qt governance within Digia. Nothing else has been affected by this," the company said in a statement.

"Digia's role is unchanged within the Qt ecosystem and we are doing this to better strengthen our technology and bring closer together our commercial and open source versions allowing us to better communicate in one voice to our ecosystem."

"Digia will continue to fund the development of the Qt technology including infrastructure, just as it does now. In addition, Digia will continue spearheading and further developing its Qt sales, marketing and business development initiatives in new markets to further expand Qt's reach.

"We believe it is the best choice to further strengthen the Qt brand."

Update: Added Digia statement

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