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Nokia to acquire Trolltech for $150 million

Jan 28, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 6 views

Finnish handset manufacturer Nokia is acquiring Norwegian phone-stack vendor Trolltech in a deal worth about $150 million USD. Expected to close in the second quarter, the acquisition increases the likelihood that Nokia will move beyond its Symbian operating system (OS) toward using Linux in its phones.

Trolltech is a development tools company with a special focus on cross-platform compatibility. Its flagship Qt (pronounced “cute”) toolsuite aims to let C++ developers target multiple platforms (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, etc.) from the same codebase, with a special API and lightweight runtime libraries aiming to deliver a native look and feel on each platform. Well-known applications built with Qt include the Opera browser and Google Earth, and Qt also underpins the KDE (KDE desktop environment) graphical desktop environment for Linux, an alternative to GNOME that is most popular in Europe.

Trolltech has been a very significant company in the device development space. Its device-oriented product line is based on a subset of Qt called Qt Core (formerly Qt/Embedded). Qt Core mainly supports Linux, although a Windows CE version has been recently demonstrated. Presumably, Qt Core could also support Symbian and other mobile environments — especially the newer, more Linux-like Symbian versions that have POSIX libraries and support for normal C++.

Trolltech's Qtopia platform

Qt Core is perhaps best-known for its use in Motorola's Linux-based mobile phones. And, Qt Core serves as the basis for Trolltech's various “Qtopia” vertical market application stacks for PDAs, mobile phones, and cordless VoIP (voice-over-IP) phones. For lots more background on Trolltech, be sure to review the “Related Stories” listed below.

Qtopia Phone Edition (QPE)architecture

Nokia promises to “continue the development” of Trolltech's products, and to continue licensing them to new and existing customers under both commercial and open source licenses. Nokia also said the acquisition of Trolltech and its Qt mobile phone technology will accelerate Nokia's “cross-platform software strategy for mobile devices and desktop applications.”

More specifically, Nokia says Trolltech's software and expertise should help increase the competitiveness of Nokia's S60 platform, which is used in dozens of Nokia and Samsung phones and is based on Symbian OS, which Nokia owns 49 percent of. Nokia also said it would play a role in its older Series 40 mobile phone software, which runs the more basic Nokia OS, and is said to be used in over 100 million devices.

The buy will also develop Nokia's Internet services business, enabling “Nokia and third party developers” to develop applications that “work in the Internet, across Nokia's device portfolio and on PCs,” Nokia reckons.

Stated Kai Öistämö, Nokia's executive VP, Devices, Nokia, “Common cross-platform layers on top of our software platforms attract innovation and enable Web 2.0 technologies in the mobile space. Trolltech's deep understanding of open source software and its strong technology assets will enable both Nokia and others to innovate on our device platforms while reducing time-to-market.”

To date, Nokia's only major foray into Linux in consumer devices has been with its popular WiFi-enabled Internet tablets, such as the current N800 and N810 (pictured at top) tablets. Yet there have long been rumors that the handset giant would expand into Linux with its mobile phones. Additionally, the world's largest handset vendor uses the open source Webkit browser in its S60 application stack, while Trolltech employs Webkit contributor Lars Knoll, creator of the KHTML rendering engine from which Webkit evolved.

The public voluntary tender offer to acquire the publicly listed Trolltech (Oslo Stock Exchange) has been “unanimously recommended” by Trolltech's board of directors, says Nokia, and to date, 66.43 percent of Trolltech's issued shares and votes have “irrevocably undertaken to accept the offer,” said the company. The acquisition is said to be based on an offer of NOK 16 per share in cash, and is subject to customary closing conditions, including “acceptance by shareholders representing more than 90 percent of the fully diluted share capital, and the necessary regulatory approvals.”

Stated Haavard Nord, CEO and founder of Trolltech, “Trolltech and Nokia share the goal of accelerating the adoption of Trolltech's Qt based technology in the commercial market and in the open source community.”

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