Reasons that Qtopia went open source

by Andy Oram

The announcement by Trolltech today, offering its highly rated Qtopia platform for mobile phones under the GPL, completes a circle linking several hot trends: mobile computing, telephony, and free software.

Qtopia has just undergone a major new release, adding such features as the Safe Execution Environment (a kind of sandbox for native code), strong support for WiFi, and integration with the WebKit browser engine. It's a lot to give away for free. Based on Trolltech's Qt graphics libraries and supporting C++ development as well as a JVM, Qtopia is a graphical environment found in a huge number of devices ranging from the Motorola Razr V8 to automobile navigation systems and medical equipment--and of course, Trolltech's own Greenphone.

I talked to CTO Benoit Schillings, who cited fairly stock reasons for going open source: development energy comes from a community of developers and users, and ultimately there's more business in serving a thriving environment of new applications and features than in holding onto secrets.

He mentioned the ubiquitous address book as a mobile feature that has hardly changed in years and is shut off from innovation because it can't be touched by application developers. When the whole platform is open, new blood flows to these atrophied parts of the system.