Nokia Puts the L in License

This time last year, the big news from the-company-formerly-known-as-Trolltech — now Qt Software — was a takeover bid from mobile-phone giant Nokia, which closed successfully in June for an estimated €104 million. Once again January brings Trolltech/Qt news from Nokia, this time announcing that beginning with the upcoming 4.5 release, the Qt framework will be licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License.

The licensing of the Qt toolkit has perhaps been one of the great sagas of the Open Source world. It was Qt's proprietary license — and KDE's reliance on Qt — that led to the creation of the GTK-based GNOME Desktop Environment in 1997. A variety of licenses were adopted and discarded over the following three years, before dual-licensing with the GPL was adopted in Qt 2.2. Conflicts continued, however, over Qt's Windows version, ultimately resulting in a forked Windows port in 2002, a matter which went unresolved until the package was released under the GPL in 2005.

The latest announcement adds a third option — the more permissive Lesser General Public License — to the mix, in addition to the existing GPL and proprietary licensing. Qt is also providing public access to source code repositories, and will offer additional support options, providing developers with the same support resources, regardless of the license used. This is the second of Nokia's 2008 acquisitions to see expanded Open Source activity: In June, the company Open Sourced its recently-acquired Symbian OS — the market leader for smartphones — establishing the Symbian Foundation and donating the code under the Eclipse Public License.

A number of Open Source companies were quick to cheer the decision, though Ubuntu-founder and Canonical chief Mark Shuttleworth was perhaps the most unique, noting that "Qt’s new licensing terms will help us deliver ever more 'lustful' applications to users." Here's hoping Mr. Shuttleworth — and everyone else involved with Qt — gets all the lust their looking for.

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