Nokia today announced creation of a Qt port to Maemo 5 that’s ready for technical preview. In January of 2008, Nokia bought Trolltech, the company behind Qt, to strategically own a cross-platform framework. It looks like that strategy is about to bear fruit. This isn’t the final version of Qt, but gives developers a chance to kick the tires in anticipation of creating applications for the Maemo platform. Maemo is what you’ll find on the Nokia N900 — a cross between a smartphone and Nokia’s prior Internet Tablets. So why is this important? Several reasons:
- The smartphone market is morphed from a native features and hardware market to an application market. While certain hardware and features are needed for a positive experience, the phone by itself isn’t enough.
- Apps developed on the Qt framework can easily be ported to other platforms. Nokia specifically mentions Symbian and Windows Mobile today, but the Qt site also shows support for Windows, Mac, Linux — note that the Linux version of Skype was developed with Qt. We could see some mobile apps leveraged by netbooks and smartbooks with a “write once, deploy anywhere” approach.
- The platform could give a boost to the number of modern quality apps to devices with Nokia’s aging S60 user interface.
- This move says that Nokia understands the changing market and they’re still in it to win it by investing in a development community. Nokia can use Qt to woo developers for its platform as well as others.
It took a long time to get there, but I see why Nokia spent $153 million for Trolltech. Now we have to wait and see if the move attracts developers. Of course, that’s the chicken-and-egg challenge. Developers may wait to see sales figures for Nokia’s N900 or other Maemo devices before investing resources on apps. But consumers may hold off on purchasing a Maemo device if there aren’t apps. It’s a simila situation to what we saw early on with Android and one we’re witnessing now with the Palm Pre. The only difference I can see is that Qt offers developers support for multiple platforms and that could make the investment pay off for everyone involved.