Nokia - The App Developer’s Choice

Roland is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

There has been a lot of speculation in the investment community about Nokia (NYSE: NOK) lately. Lots of chitter chatter about them switching to Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) operating systems on their phones and the fact their phone sales are down, or so it seems. Well, you really need to listen to the geeks more.

Microsoft paid Nokia $250 million to “adopt” Windows because even Microsoft realizes that nobody will be using any of their software in two years if they don’t start forcing it on people. Microsoft founders and legends have even been behind the scenes of the Mono project with both funding and .Net coding information in an attempt to have something that survives the corporation. Microsoft even released MS-DOS 7.10 under the GNU license, making it free for anyone to download and use.

The other thing it appears the investing world missed was Nokia’s purchase of Trolltech in 2008.

Let me tell you as both a developer with over twenty years in IT and a technical author with two books written on the Qt cross platform application development framework, Qt really is the Holy Grail. The first books I ever wrote in IT were on ZAF (Zinc Application Framework) during the days of DOS and C++. At the time, Zinc was the best of a bad situation and the only framework to support DOS, Windows, OS/2, and MAC from the same set of source.

Many other products have come to the cross-platform table professing to bring with them a Utopian feast only to leave developers hungry and heart-broken. Java, in particular, spouting its “Write Once Run Anywhere” slogan, ended up giving us a “Write Once, run if they have the exact same JVM on the exact same operating system with the exact same memory and the exact same security, otherwise, you’re on your own.”

Then we had Microsoft foist .Net on the world. Write once and run on any machine that happened to be running that exact version of Windows with the same level of .Net framework updates applied, otherwise, best of luck to ya. In truth, much of the geek world browbeat Microsoft about the fact their “Web technology” was NOT cross-platform, which led to the growth of Mono. But Mono has the same pitfall as .Net -- t requires a LOT of stuff already be loaded on the target platform before it will run.

I have no idea what those marvelous gentlemen imbibed at Trolltech to come up with “Signals and Slots,” but that design strategy has officially delivered Utopia. Thanks to its OpenSource versions for KDE development and regular application prototyping, this framework has expanded to meet all needs and is now being made available to all modern development languages. App developers can now write one set of source code and compile for every handheld device out there. These same developers can also develop desktop and enterprise-level applications with the exact same tool set.

You can do any amount of personal education and OpenSource development you want with Qt, but, when your company decides a product should be sold, you have to buy the licenses and support. This is a far cry from the days of DOS when Microsoft charged you $500 for a compiler and someone else charged you another $400 for a database library and somebody else charged you another $450 for a screen library, all before you had written your first line of code.

The other portion of this Utopia is the fact your App is natively compiled and statically linked. You get the snap and speed of a pure executable (which cannot be matched by an interpreter no matter what Java developers claim), and the security of knowing it contained everything it needed. Absolute zero support issues from Apps needing conflicting and incompatible versions of virtual machines and/or shared libraries.

Qt doesn’t care what OS or device. App developers no longer care what OS or device. Contract postings for Qt consultants with handheld experience routinely offer around $140/hour as billing rates. The days of one-trick-pony tool sets are over and Nokia owns the Holy Grail. Once the Microsoft money and contract run out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nokia build a tablet or smart phone and let you choose what OS it should have on it at time of purchase. Most of the App vendors will be right there behind them.

Times like this happen at most twice in a life time. Sit back and really appreciate the moment. This is a company that had a really long view. Quite possibly the last publicly traded company left that has bothered to look beyond the end of next quarter. All of the stories were public in the geek world, but how many of you actually sorted it out?

Roland Hughes is the President of Logikal Solutions and author of many titles.  He does not knowningly own a position in any of the companies mentioned.

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