Episode 18

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
  • Digia Takes Over Qt Commercial Sales and Support
  • Qt on QNX and INTEGRITY @ Embedded World 2011
  • DoodleDraw Game. Developed In 1 Day With Qt SDK 1.1
  • PySide 1.0 LGPL Python Bindings for Qt
Mark Hatch and Justin Noel

Intro: Welcome to ICSNetwork's This Week in Qt, the ten minute podcast that keeps you informed of significant events that may impact your engineering projects. If you have not yet heard about ICS, please visit our website at www.ics.com. As an organization, we believe we have the best independent team of Qt engineers in the world. Whether you're starting a new project or need help removing that insurmountable roadblock that every project has, please contact us at sales@ics.com.

Mark: Good morning. This is Mark Hatch from ICS. I run the Qt business here and with me today is Justin Noel one of our senior engineers to talk about this week in Qt. So Justin, what do we have on the schedule today?

Justin: Well, we've got some huge news and then some little pieces of news. Or course, I think everybody has heard everything there is to know on the Internet about the Digia and Qt relationship and how Digia is buying the commercial support division from Nokia. And there's been a lot of misconceptions, a lot of inaccurate blog postings, a lot of inaccurate things from Slashdot, even. Who knew?

M: Who knew!

J: So, we'll talk about exactly what's happening, and why it's good for Qt, and why it might be good for the ecosystem as a whole. Then, we're going to move on and talk about some interesting things at embedded world 2011 in Germany including QNX, and GreenHills being in the Qt frameworks demo booth, both presenting demos using Qt on their real-time OS's. We're going to talk a little bit about what's happening on Qt labs and some interesting blogs, and we'll talk about PySide, Python bindings for Qt hitting 1.0.

M: Ok great. So I guess I get to start off first this time with the Digia announcement since I'm the marketing geek here!

J: Yeah so Mark, what do you think of the Digia-Qt announcement?

M: Well, one of the things I think, as you've mentioned, is that people are really getting this wrong in what it means, and certainly the first wave got it completely wrong talking about rumors that Digia bought Trolltech or what remained of Trolltech, and that's just completely wrong. So, to set the story straight, and you heard it here, what Digia bought was, it bought two things. It basically agreed to employ about, I don't know, somewhere around 19 people from the sales and marketing organization of what was Nokia. This was called Qt SMS; Qt Sales Marketing and Services. And the other thing they got was basically the customer list for the existing Nokia customers. They did not acquire any of the support engineers from Nokia. They did get some consultants out in California; a handful of consultants. And so, what's happening in the short term, is nobody will actually see anything different, because when you send email for your support cases and try to get a response, the people on the other end will still be Nokia folks, and will be for some period of time. The transition time hasn't been specified, but eventually what will happen is that Digia people will take over the responsibility, and will presumably take over some type of responsibility for fixing bugs and everything else. But the problem is, they didn't get any of the engineers that actually fix bugs today. So they got sales and marketing folks, they got a handful of consultants, but they didn't get anything else. The other part of the announcement that takes a little bit of digging to figure out, 'cause there's a lot of hype around it about what Digia is going to do and how is this good for the community, in terms of Digia undertaking investment in the desktop to enhance the desktop and embedded areas. It turns out that Digia doesn't really have any red carpet input into Nokia. As one would hope, the open-governance piece that Nokia has committed itself to plays a role right here. So as Digia presumably will make enhancements for their customers, those enhancements, and I can't tell if Digia is required or isn't required to submit them, but assuming they submitted something they would go into the open-governance process, and then through that open-governance process eventually make it back into the mainline Qt. So, there's some open questions about whether Digia has to submit their changes. I'm a little bit worried about that because I would be concerned that if they are not required, they might create a fork, and at the same time, there's nothing special. So from a customer point of view, what's happened is suddenly the support has been spun off to Digia but there's no uniqueness about Digia in terms of being able to deliver the support except for the fact that they happen to have a license to sell the software and they know who you are if you're a commercial licensee.

J: Ok, as an engineer I'm hearing a few good things here. I'm hearing that, it sounds like open governance is going to get exercised because whatever fixes Digia comes up with are going to have to be submitted via open governance. I am hearing you talk about forks, but as an engineer it would be extremely difficult to fork a project as large as Qt without engineering resources from people who actually built the product. So in that regard, Nokia, since they retained all of their engineering resources. I would really see them basically still guiding the future and doing most of the major development in Qt.

M: And that's probably true, too, because they are still driving. Now, whether Digia, or anybody for that matter, it doesn't have to be Digia, might invest in supporting, for example, visual studio 10 which is not on the supported list on Windows... you know, who knows? That's a good question. But the actual bottom line of this is that Nokia has now basically opened up the process so anybody can provide support. Because now, people can say I'm going to provide support and I'm going to commit that all of my changes will go back through the open governance process, and participate in that, and everybody is on the same level-playing field as Digia. Digia has no special red carpet entry way into Qt, they have to play by the same rules as ICS does, and in fact, as we saw this roll out, one of the things we did is that we announced support for both commercial and LGPL customers for Qt. And we can do that because we now can submit our changes through the open governance process like anyone else and now customers have a choice. They have a choice of picking people who are potentially geographically related to them, so if they happen to be in North America and they want their support people to be on North American time-zones, or if they are in Europe and they want European time-zones. Or they can also chose from price, or they can choose from expertise. Digia is very known for it's handset relationship with Nokia, because that's where they came out of. ICS is more known for our desktop and embedded work.

J: Yes, so Mark, we here at ICS we've always had, for a long time actually, premiere support packages for Qt that were often priced and serviced in the high-end. Are we coming out with a product that's coming out in the low-end, that's more competitive?

M: Exactly, so we are offering, if you go to our webpage, ics.com and you'll see a listing for it, we're actually offering annual subscription services at the same price as you might buy at through, now, Digia. The other thing I think is going to happen very shortly... I've got my ears to the grapevine and what I sense is going to happen is that you've seen ICS is doing this in North America, I expect very shortly that there will be somebody in Europe that will announce, other than Digia, will announce a competing product and I wouldn't be surprised if one of the Qt partners in the Asia area also stands up and says "we can do the same thing." So I think it's a great thing for our customers. People can chose who they want to work for, it's no longer having to work with a one-size-fits all support program. They can negotiate with Digia, they can negotiate with ICS, they can have a choice, and choice and competition is good. And gee, you know if we end up getting more bugs fixed through the open governance process than somebody else, then maybe we're a better choice.

J: I've got to say, it sounds like this whole thing sounds just really good for the Qt community in general.

M: Exactly.

J: Nothing bad is happening here.

M: Right. And to figure it out, you had to figure out what was actually being sold and what was not.

So we have some other stuff we need to go through. Let's go through some of our technical stuff

J: So interesting developments in the Embedded World 2011 booth. Our demo, actually I'm not manning it this time, was shipped over, and our demo was once again the In-Vehicle-Infotainment and was in the booth. But next to us happened to be some guys from QNX who have a medical demo running on some embedded hardware running their real-time operating system entirely written in Qt and QML, and it looks really nice.

M: Well, it should. We wrote that demo!

J: See, Mark is all about the plugs today.

M: Sorry about that guys.

J: And next to QNX was a board that we didn't work on, but would like to, hint, hint, from Green Hills with their Integrity real-time operating system and they had a really nice demo, also showing Qt on their real-time embedded operating system.

M: So, again some more choices for people. If Linux doesn't quite fit what you need in that embedded space, there are a couple more choices now, right?

J: Yeah, in fact as much as a few weeks ago Qt "lost" a platform, shall we say, it definitely picked up two this week, so that is really good news for Qt.

M: And count the Android one that we talked about last time and it seems like we're on the right path here.

J: Exactly. Like I said the momentum behind Qt is extremely large, and I don't think any Nokia announcements are slowing it down.

M: Yeah that's great.

So you spied something on one of the blogs that's something we should look at?

J: Yeah, I thought this was great. You really can't explain it in this sort of radio show, so I think everyone should go to the link that's distributed with this Podcast. It's actually up on labs.qt.nokia.com, but it's a cute little game that a guy wrote in a day using the new Qt Creator SDK 1.1, and had it published to Ovi. And it's this little game that starts off with drawing a doodle and taking a picture of it and than making a little driving game where you have to avoid obstacles out of it. And I thought it was really cool. It doesn't use any physics other than the animation framework that comes with QML and I thought it was really cool. The thing is called DoodleDraw, and it runs on the N8, E7, all the Symbian 3 phones. So I'd go ahead and take a look at that. It shows you really how fast you can make things and it's pretty cute.

M: Yes we noticed earlier this year before the 1.1 was available that it was a little bit tough to get going with Qt on the N8. Now this kind of makes that a lot easier with the 1.1 SDK, doesn't it?

J: Yeah it comes with all the tools to even upgrade your phone to the latest version of Qt to get it onto the store. Smart installer works. They've made it really easy. In fact, this guy used the remote compiler because he wanted to develop his Symbian app with Linux and you can use the SDK in Linux, but when you want to build the binaries for the phone you can basically use the service from Nokia where you can upload your code, they build it and send you back the SIS package, which is what he did, and he found it to be an efficient way to work.

M: That's cool.

And now we have one last one, it's something about PythoSide

J: PySide has finally hit the 1.0 status. And what PySide is, it's a set of LGPL bindings of Qt to the Python scripting language, which is an entirely separate product than the older PyQt, and it has now hit the 1.0 release stage. And I know people personally that have been using it for actually a while now, but for anyone in the commercial range this is of course the big step. This is the 'we're guaranteed roughly to be stable.' So if you're into Python programming and you love Qt I would suggest having a look at Pyside, it's LGPL licensed

M: And so is this competition with the old PyQt stuff that we know and love?

J: It is, it is. Phil Thompson always had a great product in PyQt, and in fact our products work with it. We actually had him do the bindings. But his business model was based on the old Trolltech model where you had a commercial version and a pure GPL version which left you in a little bit of a dead space if you wanted to use the LGPL version. So some people from Nokia and some people out on the internet decided that they were gonna start this project called PySide which is basically a reimplementation of Python bindings for Qt, and they are also right now working on PySide Mobility bindings so you can actually use Mobility things from inside of PySide as well. So if you like Python, things are looking good for you.

M: Python is a good tool for using with Qt, though some of it you would kind of want to think about whether QML, at least on the embedded side, may be just a better solution for many people, right?

J: Yeah, but if you talk to people that really like Python they're very interested in the structure and aesthetics of the code and neither one of those things you could say is very aesthetically pleasing or structured in JavaScript.

M: Exactly right. That's one of the things that as we've used JavaScript in all our projects, one of the challenges there has been that your doing very well in all your code and all the style and everything else, and then you hit the reality of JavaScript.

J: Yeah, you know, written properly it can look good and work good, but the reality is that it's actually very easy, and you can do it quickly, is to run into spaghetti and just start coding yourself off a dock.

M: Yeah, ok, well that's why you might want to use PySide or if you're a PyQt user, continue using that.

Well great! It's been a very interesting couple of weeks, again like the last one. We seem to be in two-week increments as far as Nokia and their announcements, so we'll see what goes on in the next This Week in Qt. Thank you again Justin.

J: All right, I'll see everybody same time, same channel.