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Nokia Buys Open Source Trolltech For $150M

It looks like it's going to be a banner year for the acquisition of open source vendors by larger corporations.

Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia announced today that it is acquiring Norwegian open source software vendor Trolltech in a deal valued at $150 million. Trolltech trades on the Oslo Stock Exchange, where Nokia will tender 16 NOK (Norwegian Krone) to acquire all outstanding shares. The deal has already been approved by shareholders representing nearly two-thirds of Trolltech's outstanding stock and is expected to formally close in the second quarter of 2008.

"We are thrilled to join forces with Nokia," Eirik Chambe-Eng, Chief Troll and co-founder of Trolltech, said in a statement. "The company’s innovative culture and resources will give our employees new and exciting possibilities and fulfill our vision of Qt everywhere."

Trolltech's product lineup revolves around the Qt application development framework. Qt, which is available under an open source license, is the basis of the KDE Linux desktop environment, though it is a cross-platform tool that could also be used on Windows and Mac.

Nokia's interest in Trolltech, however, also includes Qt's mobile version, Qtopia, which is widely used in mobile devices from a number of manufacturers, including Nokia's rival Motorola.

To date, Nokia has not used Qtopia as a foundation for its mobile platforms but has instead focused on the use of the Symbian OS for cell phones and the desktop for the Nokia Linux tablet device. As recently as April 2007, Trolltech officials declined to comment directly on whether or not they had been in negotiations with Nokia for the use of Qtopia.

According to a Q&A published by Trolltech, Nokia is acquiring Trolltech to expand cross-platform development. Trolltech said its technology will enable Nokia and third parties to develop software across platforms easier and more cost effectively.

While Nokia is acquiring Trolltech's assets, the open source community that Trolltech's Qt fosters should not be too concerned. In an open letter to the open source community both Nokia and Trolltech pledged to continue to actively develop Qt and Qtopia.

"We also want to underline that we will continue to support the open source community by continuing to release these technologies under the GPL," the open letter states. "Trolltech has benefited greatly from the feedback the community has been providing while using Qt to develop free software. We respect the symbiotic relationship Qt has with the community and we wish to continue and enhance this relationship."

As a first step to show sincerity Nokia is now set to be an official Patron of the KDE project.

Nokia's acquisition of Trolltech is the second open source vendor acquisition in 2008 so far. Last week Sun Microsystems purchased open source database vendor MySQL for $1 billion.