[Development] Changes to Qt offering

Robin Burchell robin.burchell at crimson.no
Wed Jan 29 10:38:56 CET 2020

[ disclaimer: I wrote this in the middle of a headache last night, so I hope this is understandable ]

On Tue, Jan 28, 2020, at 5:37 PM, Volker Hilsheimer wrote: 
> 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.

That strikes me as somewhat myopic thinking. Being a sustainable business requires profitability, sure, there's more to it. Understanding an ecosystem needs a lot more thinking than looking at a spreadsheet, and it's also that hard-to-understand ecosystem that ultimately has a big effect on profitability.

To me, being sustainable is focusing on the long term. Being profitable by next year (say) might be a good thing for a business, but it may not be good for the ecosystem, which in turn means it is not _sustainable_. So focusing on long term growth prospects, new customers, new projects, etc ought to be the focus, rather than  the current approach, which to me feels like squeezing increasingly hard on the current pool of people who are using Qt already, which in turn hurts Qt's future growth prospects as a technology[1].

> 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?

A long-term "nag" at the back of my mind is that there is what feels like a very strong focus on management-level sales.

That isn't bad, but the problem is that this audience is very different to a lot of the developer (and open source) types that are directly _using_ Qt on a day to day basis. For example, management are often interested in minimizing costs: so open source or easy binary access etc undermines the argument to charge money, but at the end of the day, Qt is also often "sold" by developers, to developers (or to their own management).

This "internal" sales happens in a completely different fashion, by people who are "driven" in a completely different way (technology, open source, problem-solving, "passion", whatever) and generally is a disruptive process, from the bottom up, rather than being imposed from above. As such, the people involved often don't *have* much of a budget at that early stage, so sales/licensing "nagging" will often serve to shut this process down entirely. What they need is for the technology they are interested in to be easy to test/evaluate/consider.

Anyway, some concrete suggestions to think about:

* Keep Qt binaries easy to access with minimal "sales" or "licensing" talk for first-time users just looking at trying out Qt. Anything in front of that - even a contact form or Qt Account for example which are already in place today - is just a distraction, and will serve to put people off.
* Consider limiting the platforms/versions you offer binaries for. For example, offer binaries for the mainstream platforms built against the latest compilers/OS versions, and for anything else (older, or more esoteric platforms), you need to go commercial, or self-build.
* The same could apply to LTS binary builds after the standard support period. If you need binaries after 6 months, then you need to be licensed, or self-build.
* Make it easy to migrate from open source to commercial licensing: if people are considering giving you money, then why discourage them? Sure, there may be some who will take advantage of this, so impose limits, or make it clear that it's not an unconditional offer, but at least be up-front that it can happen in a nice fashion if both sides play nice.


[1]: Some anecdotes that immediately come to my mind from my own personal experience:

* I am aware of situations where  they keep their Qt-using code to an absolute (licensed) minimum, and refused to let anyone else really touch it or learn about Qt, because of licensing costs.
* I have spoken with people starting businesses who were on the fence about - or ultimately chose not to - use Qt because they couldn't afford to pay for commercial licensing, and weren't able to understand or make use of the open source options.
* I have spoken with people who really liked the look of Qt/QML, but immediately wrote it off as an option, because they were unsure enough about the licensing situation that they simply didn't want to take the time to look at it in more than a cursory fashion. They ended up using an alternative technology stack instead, which involved significantly more developer effort on their part - but budgeting for developer costs was seen as the better option, as it was possible to cut back on or outsource as needed.

None of these things reflects positively on Qt's _sustainability_ to me, even if they don't directly speak one way or another about _profitability_.

  Robin Burchell
  robin at crimson.no

More information about the Development mailing list