Munich is the venue for Qt's (the artist formerly known as Trolltech) Developer Days conference this week. Munich, Oktober, Developers, Qt's cross-platform application framework offering, Bier and Pretzels – what's not to like right? Well that was my thinking when I decided to attend. But the proof is in the Applestrudel right?
After a successful first date with Heathrow Terminal 5 I was off. With the promise of a comparatively no nonsense two days ahead (keynotes and presentations last only half a day and then it's into break outs, meetings and other tracks) I approached this event with great interest. I also shouldered just a tad of scepticism – which I think is only healthy when meeting with any purveyor of the “write once – run anywhere” mantra.
Qt is a cross-platform application framework that claims to enable software engineers to develop apps and UIs and then deploy them across many desktop and embedded operating systems without rewriting the source code. The company's justification for this proposition is that desktop, Internet and mobile are all converging so the same applications are needed in multiple locales.
Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, Qt envisages a time when we'll see more convergent innovation cycles between platforms, form factors, hardware components and software development.
At the first keynote, Qt's first VP on stage was Sebastian Nyström (formerly Nokia's director of technical strategy) who gave us the gung-ho 'Nokia is going to make Qt even better' company line. “We're upping the ambition level and putting more firepower in,” he said. Rather a contrived line for such a technical guy don't you think?
Giving him his due - unusually, Nyström opened up to questions from the crowd and successfully fielded one question from a disgruntled user who wanted better release quality and more support. If Nokia's intentions for Qt are strictly honourable, one can perhaps reasonably assume that this area will benefit from some extra support.
Nestled in the loving bosom of Nokia as it now is, the crowd was justifiably unsure of the longer term direction of Qt given its parent's obviously stronger focus on the mobile platform than that the desktop. These misgivings, voiced during Q&A sessions, were answered with more reference to total device convergence as previously mentioned.
Further questions also surfaced on whether Qt's technology will move towards working in a plug in capacity rather than existing as a pure play application framework. Most of this was diffused with talk of, “We'll see what will final features make it to release 4.5, which is due very soon...”
In terms of news announcements, it's probably tough to follow, “Nokia just bought us and we're about to release a major new version with new web-facing WebKit capabilities.” So we were politely offered a nibble on a portion of, “LG-Nortel is now using Qt Extended.” LG says it will use Qt to create a Linux-based user interface on a new line of devices that includes both desktop phones and Wi-Fi handsets – and, more interestingly, a consumer videophone too.
Pimp My Widgets
Scoring a very respectable 8.5 out of 10 on my personal “Is That a Funny Headline” scale, Qt also used this week's show to unveil its (Pimp My Widgets) competition. Qt developers have been encouraged to "pimp" widgets and simple applications in several categories as they try and win a Segway. Nifty stuff.
End note: as an experiment, I'm away from my desktop for a week so doing 7-days straight on an Acer Aspire netbook to see how it feels. So far, the unit is looking good. Use on a plane tray table is much easier – it's the first time I've not been worried about the guy in front snapping my screen off by reclining.