I reported a few months ago on how pleased I was that Qt was changing license to the LGPL, something I saw as a watershed for Qt adoption. I already had an awful lot of respect for Qt, but the previous GPL/commercial license did mean that adoption was in two quite widely separated camps - those who were already making GPL software, and those that could afford to license it for other cases. Great though Qt is, the price of the commercial license is really quite steep ($3,695 per-developer, per-platform), and that was hard to justify for a small developer.
So, the LGPL move is a big change and opens up a huge opportunity for Qt to be adopted in the ‘middle ground’. But beyond just adoption, Qt are clearly pushing for much higher levels of community participation going forward. A couple of weeks ago I got a call from someone in their strategy group, who is looking to reach out and build relationships with other open source groups & companies in related fields, to see how we might help each other in the future, and that sounded really promising. Today I received an email from the Qt mailing list outlining how they’re structuring their new public code repositories, and how they’ll be accepting external contributions. It all looks well thought out - they’re using Git to make patch submission easier on a large scale for example (something I’ve considered in the past, it’s only unfamiliarity and the lack of good Git UIs that puts me off doing it).
It’s great to see big companies making such solid moves into true open source participation like this, as opposed to some other companies which use open source licenses, but still operate a 100% ‘push’ model of development. Ultimately I’m sure it will pay huge dividends both for them and for the Qt user community. Obviously before the Nokia aquisition, Qt had to generate all its revenue from licensing so it had less scope or impetus to explore openness like this, but still I think there’s scope for many organisations to explore this approach with some aspects of their software products; specifically those parts that underpin the ‘premium’ side of its business or provide other infrastructural elements on which it builds its higher-margin offerings. As more companies explore these kinds of opportunities to blend open source and commerce, both as providers and consumers (and open source offers benefits on both ends of the relationship), I think we’ll see an acceleration of iterative innovation in the industry.