Trolltech goes public

The company has become the first 'dual-licence' open source operation to float, as its co-founder sees trouble ahead for open-source-averse companies

Companies who shun open source will increasingly have trouble implementing a software infrastructure, claimed the co-chief executive of Trolltech on Wednesday — the day his company became the first "dual-licence" open source company to go public.

Eirik Chambe-Eng, who started the company with Haavard Nord in 1994, told ZDNet UK that he saw Trolltech's flotation on the Oslo Stock Exchange as "very good" for its standing.

"It combines the best of both worlds," Chambe-Eng told ZDNet UK, claiming that Trolltech has shown it is possible to "have a good standing in the open source community and at the same time build value".

Trolltech describes itself as a "dual-licence" company because some of its code is available under either the GNU General Public Licence or under a closed-source licence. By going down the GPL line, a developer can use the code for free but must release their own source code under the GPL.

Chambe-Eng continued: "I think open source really is here to stay and with the mechanisms we're seeing right now, I have a hard time seeing any company being successful delivering any kind of software infrastructure without being open source."

Trolltech raised a total of 120 million Norwegian Kroner (£10.45mm). Chambe-Eng said a major advantage of the initial public offering (IPO) was that it gave Trolltech a "good revenue stream that makes it possible for us to finance a large number of full-time developers". The company currently employs 67 developers.

Trolltech also hopes to deliver better documentation, support and guaranteed response times, Chambe-Eng said.

"We are an infrastructure company — our customers are making a big bet on us and our technology. When you change to a new platform you are very much dependent on the company behind it," he explained.

Trolltech floated 7.5 million shares at a price of 16 Norwegian Kroner (£1.40), and by Wednesday lunchtime their value had risen by 10 percent.
However, Chambe-Eng insisted he was deliberately not following the price, saying that he did not want his employees to "focus on the short-term value of the company".

"We told everyone that if someone is caught looking up the share price during work hours they have to buy cake for the office," Chambe-Eng added.

Trolltech provides software-development tools, with their core product being Qt, which is used in cross-platform application development. The KDE platform was developed on Qt, and Qt also forms the basis for the Qtopia application platform for mobile Linux devices.


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