The good news today is that Nokia relicensed the Qt (pr: cute) libraries under the GNU Lesser General Public License, demonstrating that the mobile ecosystem is where things happen. The GNU Lesser GPL is a license that allows non-free and free software to co-exist. Yes, with the LGPL the FSF admits that non-free software exists. Confused/surprised? You shouldn’t be: the FSF and Stallman are much less of a fundamentalist than they are painted by the FUD-drones. The LGPL is a strategic tool to allow free software developers to help each other: when a free library doesn’t offer any particular advantages over alternative non-free libraries, then it makes sense to use the Lesser GPL for it, instead of the GPL. Using the LGPL library will give a cost saving opportunity to proprietary software developers, while free software developers will get code contributions and a wider user base.’ The L stands for “smart freedom”.
Interesting to notice that this is the second license change for the project: from the Q Public License to the GNU GPL. Now they’re under the Lesser GPL, with a more transparent development model, a git repository and, wow, contributors will keep the copyright of their code (no contributors agreement to sign). Nokia seems very aggressive, and they’re right. With Android in town they need to fight with all the weapons they have.
I expect now a tougher competition between the two major toolkits, Qt and GTK+, with a polarization of the battle field. On the Qt side there is Nokia, on the GTK+ side there is Sun, Novell, RedHat, HP and all mobile’ Linux platforms. Nokia is also supporting GTK+ for its Maemo Internet Tablets, but I guess they’ll pull the plug and switch to Qt in a few months.
Does it still make sense to push the development of the somewhat inferior LGPL GTK+ when you can switch to LGPL Qt? We’ll have to wait and see. What is sure is that free software is definitely here to stay and play a major role in the mobile arena (and I’m betting that Capo wins his bet –Microsoft will offer Windows Mobile as free software).