Trolltech Shares Listed on Norwegian Stock Exchange

Software development toolmaker Trolltech, which provides its Qt and Qtopia development software for embedded, mobile and Linux systems developers, completed its initial public offering (IPO) and earned a listing on Norway’s Oslo Stock Exchange this week. Its ticker symbol is TROLL.

The firm’s dual licensing approach allows users of its software to develop with it under the GPL open source license, or a paid commercial license with Trolltech. At the conclusion of its IPO, the 170-employee company claimed the purchase of more than 7.5 million shares at the price of NOK16, or US$2.57 per share.

“We wanted to have bigger financial muscle,” Trolltech co-founder and co-Chief Executive Officer Haavard Nord told LinuxInsider. “We need to keep developing the platform and run as fast as we can.”

Creative Culture

Trolltech will use the proceeds of its IPO, which came from “first tier” investors from primarily the U.S., UK, and Norway, to grow its company, including adding more engineers and a service group in China, according to Nord.

He said the biggest challenge for the company will be maintaining its open source development focus while trimming back on overall transparency now that the company is public.

“We will have to be more cautious, but we must do this while not changing the culture too much,” Nord said.

He hopes to grow the company to more than 250 employees by the end of the year and plans to continue his firm’s “creative Fridays” tradition, which allows company developers to work on pet projects one day a week. The events may sometimes by canceled because of release deadlines, but the projects performed on creative Fridays are integral to Trolltech, Nord said.

“Nobody is going to take those away,” he said. “We need to have innovation. We see so many great things coming out of creative Fridays — it’s a real good investment.”

Dual Licensing Done Right

Although the company has been criticized by some free and open source software (FOSS) proponents in the past, Nord asserted that its dual licensing business model was validated by the successful IPO. Trolltech’s dual licensing scheme, which allows companies to develop with Trolltech software without GPL requirements, offers “the best of both worlds,” he said.

“We think dual licensing is best for middleware and development tools. If you don’t have an open source-type of licensing, I think you’ll be in trouble,” Nord stated.

What is far more important than Trolltech’s dual licensing — which has become more the rule than the exception among vendors — is the company’s software and satisfied customers, software licensing expert, former Open Source Initiative (OSI) general counsel and author of “Open Source Licensing” Lawrence Rosen told LinuxInsider.

“It is a validation of their model,” Rosen said. “And they have interesting products and that’s what counts in software.”

Onward, Open Source

Trolltech is able to avoid potential pitfalls of the dual license model, such as GPL contributions that may not carry over to commercially-licensed software, because the bulk of its contributions come from its internal development community, accroding to Nord.

“The main help we get from the open source community is they use our products,” he said.

Trolltech’s Qt cross-platform development software and Qtopia application development platform for Linux devices are widely used by a range of industry players, including Adobe, Google, Motorola, Skype, and the KDE Linux desktop interface project.

“We are very committed to the GPL model and Linux benefit to the company,” Nord said. “If anything, we’ll be even more supportive.”

Scandinavia and Beyond

Trolltech — which originated in Oslo and now has offices in Germany, Australia, the U.S. and now China — highlights the prevalence of both open source software players and users in Scandinavia and mainland Europe.

Gartner Vice President George Weiss told LinuxInsider that his family connections to Oslo, which include relatives who have worked for Yahoo and Opera there, have shed light on what he sees as “a vibrant hi-tech and software development community in various product segments.”

Nord said there is no doubt that open source software is strong in Norway, as well as Germany, but he pointed to Massachusetts and mainland China as other hotbeds.

“This is happening worldwide,” he said. “I think open source is global and without borders.”

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