Qt marches on with 5.0 release, sets sights on iOS and Android

Digia, which has taken over the commercial and open-source sides of Qt from Nokia, says version 5.0 of the graphical UI development toolkit will be out in December, with iOS and Android support coming in late 2013.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Digia, the company that now controls Qt, says it hopes to have the graphical user interface development toolkit working with both Android and iOS by the end of next year.

Digia laid out its plans for Qt at a developer conference in Berlin on Tuesday, explaining that it wanted to continue its traditional support for desktop and embedded systems, while also tackling rising mobile platforms. The first major fruit of Qt's Digia era will be version 5.0, which is likely to come by the end of this year.

The company also moved to reassure developers that it would maintain Qt's dual-licensing model, which allows paid-for commercial deployments alongside free open-source use.

"We are going to be a fair player with Qt," Digia international products chief Tommi Laitinen said in a keynote session. "We will keep the ecosystem open and we will keep the business architecture open."

Nokia used to own Qt — it was an essential part of the company's now-defunct plan for cross-platform development between MeeGo and Symbian — but it sold the commercial arm to Digia in 2011 and the remaining operations to the Finnish company in August this year.

Laitinen noted that Nokia's strategy with Qt was not geared towards supporting as many platforms as possible, whereas Digia is "going to do that".

Android, iOS, Windows RT and BlackBerry

The first step in Digia's Qt curatorship will be Qt 5.0, which Leitinen said would hopefully come out in December. "However, you never know," he warned. "There has been a lot of hassle."

Lars Knoll, Qt's chief maintainer, explained that Qt 5.0 would be "99 percent source compatible" with Qt 4.x, making the switch "relatively easy". He said the project would be moving over to a time-based release schedule, aiming for a release each spring and autumn.

Qt 5.2, the second release planned for next year, will be a crucial one — this is where Digia hopes to introduce solid support for both Android and iOS devices.

BlackBerry 10 will get supported earlier, unsurprisingly as the platform is now the biggest Qt user in the mobile market. RIM said on Monday that it would release smartphones bearing its updated platform in January 2013.

"RIM has done a lot of work to make sure Qt runs smoothly on BlackBerry 10," Knoll said. "BlackBerry 10 has integrated Qt 4.8 support, but they will add 5.0 soon."

Regarding Windows 8, Knoll explained that Qt works well with the classic desktop mode, but Windows RT was a trickier proposition. "We got the first pixels onto the screen a few days ago," he said. "There's not too much working, except that we can draw some pixels."

Changes in Qt 5.0

Knoll said Qt 5.0 would be more modular than its predecessors, and that the Qt Essentials pack would now take in increasingly important elements such as multimedia support. The Qt Multimedia module will use the native system API as the backend. 

C++ 11 support will be enabled by default on all compilers, and the project has also upgraded to the latest version of Unicode. Qt WebKit will come with "the latest HTML5 features" and WebGL will also be enabled on all platforms, Knoll added.

Other add-ons will not be in the official Qt 5.0 release but are nonetheless available — this includes add-ons such as Qt 3D, Qt Location and, crucially for mobile devices, Qt Sensors. In preparation for the update, Digia released Beta 2 of Qt 5.0 on Tuesday.

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