[Development] Changes to Qt offering

Tim Murison tim.murison at gmail.com
Tue Jan 28 19:01:43 CET 2020

> The Qt Company is a public company; we are not yet profitable, but things are getting there. Given how significant the Qt Company contribution to Qt is, making it a sustainable business should be in the interest of anyone that wants to see Qt continue to be a successful and evolving technology.

I’d imagine most people on this list are sympathetic with this reality. Making money from open source software is challenging, from what I can tell there are probably (broadly) 3 options:

1) Cripple the open source product and sell licenses to a closed source premium version.
2) Sell support.
3) Sell a service related to the open source product.

I think most people are relating negatively, I know I certainly am, because this change feels like the next step in a slow move towards option #1.

From my perspective Qt has gone from a technology I considered as my first choice for basically all dev in 2005-2010 to a tool that I now consider primarily useful for UI development. Part of this is due to Qt failing to branch into relevant spaces (QML -> HTML seems like an obvious miss, to me) and part is due to the rise of tooling that is (IMO) superior (Rust for most non-UI programming, for example) or if not directly superior provides serious competition where there wasn’t before.

Asking the community to consider this change as an attempt to allow “Qt to continue to be a successful and evolving technology” rings hollow when it seems like Qt is already falling behind and failing to evolve. Viewed in that light, this change seems very much an attempt to get some money out of existing users without doing any of the evolving technology work. To be clear, I’m sure that ISN’T the intent, but that’s what it looks like on the receiving end.

> Making backporting of fixes to old branches a commercial-only service is an attempt to encourage more companies that are basing their business on Qt-based software to contribute with funding. Ideally without antagonizing the community, but that’s obviously a difficult balance to strike.

This is precisely the kind of thing that amplifies the impression that tQtC is following path #1 and crippling the offering for non-paying users.

> Would making Qt cheaper make it more likely that the Qt Company becomes a sustainable business? Would giving a few licenses out for free to contributors help with that? I doubt it would make much of a difference.

It is a matter of scale. If Qt was significantly cheaper, especially for hobbyists and small companies, then yes I think that would help immensely. Charging $5k per seat is a non-starter for many people/companies when there are alternative toolkits that charge $0.

To attract customers, tQtC first needs people to choose to use Qt. Part of that choice is asking yourself “can I afford this?” The new offering doesn’t help with that. Partly because $500/yr isn’t no-brainer cheap, partly because the fear of triggering the $5500/yr license is ever present, and partly because 100k/yr of sales doesn’t push the increased cost far enough into the future that it can be ignored.

Instead, at least for me, I see this and think, if I’m lucky maybe I’ll only have to pay $500 this year, but next year I’m likely at $11k or more (hopefully I’ll have 2+ devs) and there is no way I can afford that.

The threat of charging for prior years of development is also a major turn worry. Even if I wanted to use a commercial-only feature, I’d think long and hard before contacting tQtC for fear of being told I owe years of back licensing. Whether or not that would happen isn’t relevant, I’m just not going to take the risk since it could sink my project/company, better to work around the missing feature, or just not use Qt at all.

> Should we turn the Qt Company into a business for which Qt becomes a secondary priority, and where we develop Qt only as a means to an end (which would be the kitware business model)? I really don’t think that would serve Qt very well.

That’s option #3, I don’t think that necessarily goes against the interest of Qt as a product. It would at least provide some comfort that tQtC is well funded, and make the priorities and future direction of tQtC’s development efforts less opaque to the community.

> Maybe you all have great ideas that we missed though. What kind of change do you think would give companies a really good reason to buy a license, without at the same time hurting the community?

1. Work on making Qt more relevant. For me this means bringing QML to the web. Obviously tQtC will have to determine those priorities.
2. Don’t scare people off before they even start. Much lower initial pricing, no historical licensing, more distant ramps for price increases.
3. Focus on getting people/companies to make multi person-year investments in Qt-based projects — it is only these projects that can stomach high license fees.

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