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Qt DevDays Munich: Talking To The Trolls

With co-located events in the German city of Munich this October and a subsequent U.S. event to be held in San Francisco in early November, the company that was Trolltech (which then became Nokia Qt) held its DevDays event to a focused and enthused audience.

Mario Argenti, SVP of Nokia developer experience and market, kicked off the proceedings and alluded to a turbulent last 12 months during which time the company has witnessed much change in both itself and in the industry at large. The last year has of course seen the addition of the Qt Quick (Qt User Interface Creation Kit), a high-level user interface technology for UI designers and developers with scripting language skills.

But arguably the biggest news this year is the transition of Qt to what is now an open governance model as the Qt Project (as it is now known), which has gone live as of last week. This, says Argenti, is proof that Nokia will continue to invest in Qt as a "strategic component" in its wider technology stack. So from now, development of Qt will be governed as a true open source project with the launch of qt-project.org — a website where all Qt development will be centered. The company says that this will provide the same "infrastructure and processes" for every programmer that wants to contribute to Qt.

Downloads of the Qt Framework have progressed from 250,000 in 2008 to what is now approaching 2 million. According to the company's evangelists (or Trolls as they are known), there is exceptional growth in automotive and home media devices just now. Certainly, despite criticism levied at Qt from some corners, attendee numbers are up this year with over 500 developers having registered for attendance at the "day zero" pre-show training day. These programmers were joined by a further 400 developer/architect attendees for days one and two of this show. According to Qt's publicity function, "One of the tracks 'Advanced Qt — a deep dive' was way-oversubscribed. Originally we had planned on 150 people attending and 220 people registered — so we had to find more capacity/extra trainer. People from 32 different countries attended the training sessions including participants from Europe, Asia, North America, and South America."

The Qt partnership with Microsoft has given rise to the creation of a guide to port apps from Qt to Windows Phone, which has been around for some time now; but this week the company is talking about a new guide that exists for porting apps from Windows Phone to Qt itself. As an open source Qt project, all development will happen in one central location, with access for everyone at the same time so that there are no more separate code flows for "Nokians vs. others". Anyone can be a Contributor and even an Approver or Maintainer if they show enough merit, says the company.

This open governance work actually started more than a year ago now. It has gone through all the changes at Nokia, it will go through the current and future Qt-based products from Nokia — and it will also go through whatever superficial skepticism the project gets. "The Qt Project is a welcome development in the evolution of Qt. This move should allow for participation in the project from a broad set of developers based on the quality of their code. This is certainly a welcome change," said Jim Zemlin, executive director, The Linux Foundation

"We fully support the work being done with the Qt Project. An openly governed Qt is in the best interests of all Qt developers. The open governance structure of the Qt Project empowers developers to influence the direction and the pace of Qt development. Stakeholders in the future of Qt, such as KDE, can now contribute according to their own priorities and take ownership over areas of Qt that are of particular importance to them," said Olaf Schmidt-Wischhöfer, KDE Free Qt Foundation.

Larns Knoll, chief maintainer of the Qt Project as it now stands, gave the closing keynote session on day one and talked about how the project is now more "inclusive" from a community development perspective. As such, he wants to now define the project under the following parameters:

  • Fair — what developers actually contribute is what matters.
  • Transparent — discussions on every patch should be in the open: "Code that is not visible to the project simply does not exist for the project," said Knoll.
  • Inclusive — small bug fixes, documentation fixes, or just helping out on the wiki is important too.
  • Meritocratic — the people who know the most and do the most for the project get the biggest say and vote on the future of the project.

Knoll says he is aiming for "richer releases" with new features coming into Qt from non-Nokia developers such as support for new calendaring systems. He also spoke about Qt 4.8, which is on the way soon and will feature key network access that is now multi-threaded for better download access. Qt WebKit is also now built with "many HTML5 features" and there is the Lighthouse architecture as a new addition.

But looking ahead at Qt 5, there has been a "restructuring of source code" to make the product more suitable for the new fluid, touch-based UIs, which will be brought about in a QML-centric app model. The overall footprint for Qt will also be reduced, says Knoll, although it will depend on use cases for the type of app presented at deploy time and whether or not it is a QML-based application; a footprint reduction of around 30% is thought to be possible. In all, there seems to be a generally upbeat air from this conference; higher level Microsoft and MeeGo related strategies were perhaps not as volubly discussed as they could be. It will be interesting to see how the sister event in the USA resonates with this one.

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