Eirik Chambe-Eng, President, Trolltech

Eirik Chambe-Eng
Trolltech has a critical role to play in the Linux ecosystem.

Its Qt (pronounced “cute”) application framework is at the heart of KDE
, one of Linux’s main graphical environments, the other being
GNOME, which is based on the GTK+ framework.

Qt’s mobile version Qtopia
is a critical component for rolling out Mobile Linux and is used by Motorola among numerous other cell phone vendors.

Internetnews.com recently caught up with Trolltech co-founder and
president Eirik Chambe-Eng to talk about the challenges that his company
faces, about mobile Linux and about choice on the Linux desktop.

Q: From a sales point of view is it hard to convince mobile phone
manufacturers to use Qtopia or mobile Linux on their devices?

Currently there are some technical challenges. Today you need to shop
around for a lot of components. You need to get a kernel, a browser, someone
to integrate it and you need a lot of knowledge

We have a strong track record. Our
challenge is just getting customers to give the solution a test run.
Motorola has been very important because of what they’ve done and because
they’ve sold so many in China.
We now have already 30 customers building mobile phones with Trolltech.

Q: Where is the biggest opportunity for growth? The mobile space or
on the desktop?

We’re seeing strong growth in both of our major product areas. Both on the
desktop and on the embedded mobile side they really are closely tied
together. The fact that Qt is the foundation of Qtopia, we have the entire
third-party ecosystem surrounding Qt for our customers

We’re currently experience the largest amount of growth for Qtopia and I
think that is natural for the phase that we’re in.

In terms of revenue, we
really have two different business models for the two types of products. For
Qt we sell licenses per developer platform but that means we get our revenue
when our customers start their projects.

Whereas for Qtopia it is based on a run-time model where we get paid per
device sold into the market that contains our software. So we get our
revenue when our customers have completed their projects.

That’s why
there is very strong revenue stream currently from Qt on the developer tools
side and we have a building revenue stream on the Qtopia side.

Q: On the Linux desktop there is a perception among many that there are more
GTK+-based applications than Qt-based applications. Is that a valid
perception? And how is Trolltech working to build further acceptance of Qt
on the desktop?

I beg to differ with you. We see a lot of applications based on Qt. We’re
seeing a lot of commercial and open source application out there that are
based on Qt. We think that it’s a good thing to have choice.

We also think
that one important technical aspect is often forgotten in the debate of GTK+
vs. Qt, GNOME vs. KDE, which is that they are both based on the X Windowing
System and they are both on top of Linux so any application built for GNOME
can work on KDE and vice versa.

Q: Novell may or many not now be pushing GNOME over KDE. Red Hat has a lot
of GNOME developers. Does it matter whether the large enterprise Linux
vendors push one desktop over another?

It’s a choice kind of thing. There are players pushing KDE also and we think
that it’s very good for the community to have two windowing systems. We
think it’s vital to have competition.

If we only had one of these, you wouldn’t have
the same quality and technical excellence that you find in both projects

Q: Linus Torvalds recently came out strongly in favor of KDE over GNOME.
Were you “gratified” by Torvalds’s gleaming endorsement?

What we said “hurrah” about was the fact the he said that KDE was great
because of the underlying technology, because of the development tools it is
based on, because of Qt.

We thought that it was great the Linus Torvalds
thought our technology was great, that made us proud.

Q: Is Qt just for Linux? And if not what is your developer breakdown by OS?

No it’s a cross-platform toolkit with the same API also available on
Windows and on Macintosh. I have to say that we have 70 to 80 percent of our revenues from Windows and 70 to 80 percent of our revenues from Linux.

It’s because our customers make
cross-platform software. Most of our customers use Qt for both Windows and
Linux and then we have a nice base level on Macintosh.

Our core market is really customers that want to deploy on both Linux and
Windows at the same time. Very often we’ll see developers use the Linux
version to develop the software and then they’ll just recompile with the
Windows version and then they can deploy on Windows.

Q: What is the biggest challenge that Trolltech faces now?

The biggest challenge is that we’re growing really fast and we’re seeing so
much momentum on both the Qt and the Qtopia side. Today we’re 170 employees
and we’ll be 250 by the end of the year. We were 95 on the first of January
last year.

We need to run as fast as we can to take advantage of the potential we see
out there now and growing the organization and making sure we keep the
Trolltech spirit and culture. That’s the big challenge.

Q: What are the remaining goals with Qt that you hope to achieve to
meet the challenges that you’re seeing today?

We have to add new types of functionality to the product all the time.
Basically what we’re doing is creating an infrastructure for the common
challenges that developers face.

So we have to always look at what’s common
now, what is the wheel that everyone is inventing, and that changes all the

The really challenging stuff that is going on right now is going on in the
user interface — expressive design-type user interfaces. There is a lot of
buzz on around that. That’s something we’re working hard on.

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