Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Lori MacVittie, Charlotte Spencer-Smith, Anders Wallgren, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud, Mobile IoT, Release Management

Open Source Cloud: Interview

Nokia’s Qt and the Open Road to Code

Exclusive Q&A with Benoit Schillings, Chief Technologist for Nokia’s Qt Software

With the pending acquisition of Sun by Oracle and speculation over whether a new stream of monetization is about to tarnish and dishonor the good name of open source, industry eyes are watching the open code zone more keenly than ever to try and gauge whether a new playing field is about to surface.

Given the burgeoning acceptance of open technologies at the enterprise level, many segments of the IT sector are re-evaluating the way they view open source. The global economic slowdown and the proliferation of user-facing applications such as Firefox have also helped shape the new attitudes coming to the fore.

Open Source Magazine talks exclusively to Benoit Schillings, Chief Technologist for Nokia’s Qt Software (originally Trolltech) to get an insight into the strategic development of the company’s open approach to its cross platform application framework.

Open Source Magazine: Over the last 18 months, Qt has evolved from being a brand inside of Trolltech before Nokia acquired the company, to becoming an entity in its own right under a new parent organization. What has the transition process been like and hasn’t your technology proposition been diluted somewhat along the way as a result of these corporate shifts?

Benoit Schillings: I can understand why people might wonder how the process has been carried out and how well it has been managed, so I can tell you that great care has been taken to retain the spirit & structure of Trolltech as the cornerstone for our existence as a business and to maintain the innovation that the original company has always been recognised for.

We have of course also learned from Nokia and already benefitted from the weight of its research and development function. But far from being tied to Nokia’s overall roadmap, we have in fact gained an extra degree of freedom in our work thanks to our broadened adherence to the Lesser General Public License (LGPL) and the ability to include external contributions to our product that comes with this. We’re also now more focused on framework structures rather than worrying as much about the underlying aspects of the operating system.

Open Source Magazine: Qt Software recently completed its plans to open the Qt source code repositories and to allow contributions from the developer community. What has reaction to this been like to date and what do you think the first tangible impact of this move will be?

Schillings: Just a couple of months into this process, the impact is already visible. We are now seeing improvements come to light that in the past had been carried out by our customers but were never been fully integrated. There is tangible localization of our product & tools to a variety of languages and some very interesting performance improvements, which are certainly down to open exposure to the wider development community.

Just looking at the contributions in the last couple of days I can see 17 ‘check-ins’ related to multi-touch support for instance. I can not tell you how exciting it is to see technology that you yourself have helped shape, get to a certain point and then be open sourced for extended development and refinement. You can check out the latest contributions here to see the process in action: http://qt.gitorious.org/

Open Source Magazine: You have also recently launched a web-based source code management system based on the principles of the Git and Gitorious open source version control and collaboration structure. How will this enable the community to submit patches more easily?

Schillings: The main advantage of Git is the non-centralized process that it operates with, which means that the creation of branches and experiments is easy to do with a good mechanism to merge back. This avoids some of the issues with ‘locked check-outs’, which can become a problem with large collective projects.

For those with an interest, Linus Torvalds has joked that he is a miserable sort of guy and therefore chose the somewhat inglorious name Git (which means an unpleasant person in some cultures) for his freely distributed revision control system as he always names products after himself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Git_(software)

Open Source Magazine: Your company has openly stated that your goal is to build the best cross-platform application and UI framework possible and that you will leverage feedback from the open source community to make sure you do this responsibly. In practice, what kind of augmentations are you expecting to arise as a direct result of software engineers using your product in real world use case scenarios?

Schillings: The short answer is many - I expect augmentations to be numerous and multifarious. Specifically I think we’ll see up front improvements in performance and the rapid creation of new and more appealing interface concepts. I also think we’ll see the use of Qt as a foundation for new devices and new software products. Getting slightly conceptual for a second, Qt in the open source arena now has the potential to fast track towards emerging technologies and experiment in new areas such as 3D GUIs and hybrid browser projects.

Logically, Qt will also now extend to parallel processing scenarios where use of multi-core processors will lead to threading of application streams that run concurrently for more power and speed. So like any technology in this position making its first big steps in open source, I think we’ll see optimisation for specific hardware platforms and chipsets. In short, it will be a wider world technologically speaking.

Open Source Magazine: Tell us about the rollout plans you will be coordinating for the next Qt 4.6 release. Reports suggest that you want to be very much focused on more dynamic user experiences and giving developers the power to build compelling and immersive experiences using multi-touch screen technology without necessarily being a command line guru.

Schillings: Our next releases will all bring with them a new weight in terms of their impact upon the total Qt code base. But you know what? It’s a funny thing - tool chains in software development have a strange way of becoming more complicated to use while staying strangely primitive. For instance, there is still no easy way to include graphics in your source file, or to integrate communication between engineers in the development tools themselves.

The message is that by providing an IDE that is shaped every day by real world programmers, we can add the really useful things we need. For example, the Vi key emulation we have in there now (and I admit this is an extremely geeky part of what we do, but for the record - Vi emulation mimics the modal behavior of the Vi editor) can significantly impact overall productivity. We will continue with a pragmatic view of how to improve software productivity not just with a good framework, but also by improving the tools and the communication channels within a team.

Open Source Magazine: What do you feel will be the single biggest factor that shakes up software application development in the open source and cross platform space over the next five years?

Schillings: I have to tell you that I get slightly annoyed by people who constantly ask me what the next killer application will be and whether it will be created through open source development. I mean come on; if I knew where the next Twitter is coming from I would not tell you!

The next killer application that will result from the combined strength of the open source community as it finally comes of age and gains far closer proximity to the commercial front end of corporate software development will be choice. It’s as simple as that. With choice we have the power to pick best of breed at every level for every device, for every user in every use case scenario across every platform. This is the central reason why Qt open sourced our source code repositories and it will remain the key to the next stage of wider growth and success with our developers and the users that their applications ultimately touch.

More Stories By Adrian Bridgwater

Adrian Bridgwater is a freelance journalist and corporate content creation specialist focusing on cross platform software application development as well as all related aspects software engineering, project management and technology as a whole.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, will discuss the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filte...
SYS-CON Events announced today that VAI, a leading ERP software provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. VAI (Vormittag Associates, Inc.) is a leading independent mid-market ERP software developer renowned for its flexible solutions and ability to automate critical business functions for the distribution, manufacturing, specialty retail and service sectors. An IBM Premier Business Part...
Fortunately, meaningful and tangible business cases for IoT are plentiful in a broad array of industries and vertical markets. These range from simple warranty cost reduction for capital intensive assets, to minimizing downtime for vital business tools, to creating feedback loops improving product design, to improving and enhancing enterprise customer experiences. All of these business cases, which will be briefly explored in this session, hinge on cost effectively extracting relevant data from ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...
As enterprises work to take advantage of Big Data technologies, they frequently become distracted by product-level decisions. In most new Big Data builds this approach is completely counter-productive: it presupposes tools that may not be a fit for development teams, forces IT to take on the burden of evaluating and maintaining unfamiliar technology, and represents a major up-front expense. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Warfield, CTO and Co-Founder of Coho Data, will dis...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, will provide an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profes...
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusion, a leading provider of cloud services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Fusion, a leading provider of integrated cloud solutions to small, medium and large businesses, is the industry's single source for the cloud. Fusion's advanced, proprietary cloud service platform enables the integration of leading edge solutions in the cloud, including clou...
Most people haven’t heard the word, “gamification,” even though they probably, and perhaps unwittingly, participate in it every day. Gamification is “the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (as a task) so as to encourage participation.” Further, gamification is about bringing game mechanics – rules, constructs, processes, and methods – into the real world in an effort to engage people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Endo, owner and engagement manager of Intrepid D...
Eighty percent of a data scientist’s time is spent gathering and cleaning up data, and 80% of all data is unstructured and almost never analyzed. Cognitive computing, in combination with Big Data, is changing the equation by creating data reservoirs and using natural language processing to enable analysis of unstructured data sources. This is impacting every aspect of the analytics profession from how data is mined (and by whom) to how it is delivered. This is not some futuristic vision: it's ha...
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Learn how IoT, cloud, social networks and last but not least, humans, can be integrated into a seamless integration of cooperative organisms both cybernetic and biological. This has been enabled by recent advances in IoT device capabilities, messaging frameworks, presence and collaboration services, where devices can share information and make independent and human assisted decisions based upon social status from other entities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Heydt, founder of Seamless...
The IoT's basic concept of collecting data from as many sources possible to drive better decision making, create process innovation and realize additional revenue has been in use at large enterprises with deep pockets for decades. So what has changed? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Prasanna Sivaramakrishnan, Solutions Architect at Red Hat, discussed the impact commodity hardware, ubiquitous connectivity, and innovations in open source software are having on the connected universe of people, thi...
WebRTC: together these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at WebRTC Summit, Cary Bran, VP of Innovation and New Ventures at Plantronics and PLT Labs, provided an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it may enable, complement or entirely transform.
There are so many tools and techniques for data analytics that even for a data scientist the choices, possible systems, and even the types of data can be daunting. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Harrold, Global CTO for Big Data Solutions for EMC Corporation, showed how to perform a simple, but meaningful analysis of social sentiment data using freely available tools that take only minutes to download and install. Participants received the download information, scripts, and complete end-t...
For manufacturers, the Internet of Things (IoT) represents a jumping-off point for innovation, jobs, and revenue creation. But to adequately seize the opportunity, manufacturers must design devices that are interconnected, can continually sense their environment and process huge amounts of data. As a first step, manufacturers must embrace a new product development ecosystem in order to support these products.
Manufacturing connected IoT versions of traditional products requires more than multiple deep technology skills. It also requires a shift in mindset, to realize that connected, sensor-enabled “things” act more like services than what we usually think of as products. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David Friedman, CEO and co-founder of Ayla Networks, discussed how when sensors start generating detailed real-world data about products and how they’re being used, smart manufacturers can use the dat...
When it comes to IoT in the enterprise, namely the commercial building and hospitality markets, a benefit not getting the attention it deserves is energy efficiency, and IoT’s direct impact on a cleaner, greener environment when installed in smart buildings. Until now clean technology was offered piecemeal and led with point solutions that require significant systems integration to orchestrate and deploy. There didn't exist a 'top down' approach that can manage and monitor the way a Smart Buildi...