Friday, July 9, 2010

So, where are those mobile Qt apps ? (Part 1, History)

As part of a testing and compatibility effort, Nokia announced Qt to be officially available on Maemo 5 (i.e. the Nokia N900) on the Maemo Summit in October 2009. A lot of time has passed since then, and despite the sizeable Qt developer community and popularity of Qt on desktops, the number of Qt applications remained fairly low. This is true for both among the (admittedly few) commercial apps and in the (thousands strong) Extras community repository. In this three part blog series I’ll try to analyze what are the causes for this shortage and what needs to be done to remedy this situation lest it continue onto MeeGo and future Symbian versions.

This series consists of three parts (yes, I finally realized my posts are too long) :

  1. History - the timeline of Qt with regard to Symbian and Maemo/MeeGo
  2. Adoption - describing what problems have hindered a "more than words" Qt adoption so far
  3. Resolution - what are the remaining logjams and how to break them

As described above, in this part, I’ll write about the history of the Qt timeline in Maemo/MeeGo in order to gain some perspective:

The Qt toolkit is one of the pivotal points of Nokia’s future strategy as it will be the base of it’s MeeGo handheld user experience and also the umbrella that will unite Symbian and MeeGo from an application developer perspective in the future. We can see that this is no short term plan - it took quite some time to arrive here. Just to put things into perspective I included a few Android events. This should also make it clear how "new" the Android arrival is and how it hardly fits the Qt strategy on the platform level - though I would still like to see Qt apps on Android.

In any case, seeing the timeline it is obvious that the Qt strategy was not a whim, it was a broad, consistent strategy. Qt has come a long way, it has been available to developers living on the mobile edge for well over a years (and two decades for those that are familiar with Qt from the desktop). It fought it’s way to actual devices and stable repositories (an install base of several million handsets via the Smart Installer and the N900 since PR1.2). Ovi now accepts Qt apps. The Nokia Qt SDK is released with the nifty QtCreator IDE largely reducing the pains of the powerful-but-linux-guru-oriented scratchbox environment of the Maemo SDK. The Qt API is a lot friendlier than the AVKON APIs or the generic rag-tag Linux APIs ever were. There are already thousands of developers (both FOSS and commercial) with a lot of previous Qt experience. Qt is touted as the future of all Nokia smartphones. We should be swimming in cool Qt apps, right ? Well, sadly, as many N900 owners are painfully aware, that is still not quite the case, and while there are a few community efforts and the telltale commercial app, it’s far from a landrush. In this blog post I have outlined the Qt’s history, it’s promise on mobile platforms and all the good stuff. If you want to know where the sand is slowing the gears down and what both Nokia/Intel and the community can do to unblock the cogs, check back in a couple of days for parts two and three !


  1. nice blog. I will be back and see the 2 and 3.

  2. I'm currently working on 2 Qt apps for desktop/maemo/meego/symbian. The first one should be released soon, and the other one before september... but Qt 4.6 is only here since 1.2 and some may wait Qt 4.7 and QML to start working...

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