Trolltech flies the flag for Linux mobile apps

A Brisbane-based team of developers has played a key part in the development of Linux-based mobile applications for software developer Trolltech.

Despite being headquartered in Norway, Trolltech has led its primary development team at its Brisbane base since 1999.

Although better known for Qt, a cross-platform GUI toolkit, it's been with Linux embedded systems that the company has started to make grounds, according to Trolltech vice president of engineering for mobile and embedded systems, Warwick Allison.

"We are in front of all our competitors when it comes to Linux based applications on phones, but we still have catching up to do on Symbian and Windows," he said.

The Brisbane team was responsible for development of Trolltech's flagship software, Qtopia, an application platform for embedded Linux mobile phones, PDAs and other mobile computing devices.

The application allows full access to its source code so manufacturers can customize specific features for each device. It's based on the Qt toolkit which uses an extended version of the C++ programming language, and also has bindings for Python, Ruby, C, Perl and Pascal.

Allison said Qtopia was created to simplify the growing complexity and number of new features in mobile devices.

"Basically, all mobile phone interfaces are bad at the moment," Allison said. "As phones have got more functionality, they've become harder to use."

He said Qtopia was able to offer users a simple interface that accommodated the growing list of new technologies, such as MP3 players, found on mobile devices nowadays.

Qtopia has been deployed in a number of mobile devices including Motorola smart phones, Sharp PDAs, Kangaroo TV and IBM's e-LAP. Set-top boxes and media players also use the platform.

Allison said the market for Linux-based mobile applications was beginning to open up as manufacturers and vendors started to ease stringent industry specifications.

"Manufacturers are relaxing and responding to the potential that Linux has to disrupt the mobile market and bring in new and innovative applications," he said.

He added that the trend was being driven by Asia, in particular China, where Linux-based devices were endorsed by the government.

Trolltech's Brisbane office employs 40 developers, but the company has plans to expand that to 50 by the end of the year, Allison said.

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