Mobile World Congress

I’m travelling too much… I just returned from India, where I visited and did some work — but I haven’t had time to blog about the Mobile World Congress, which I visited before going to India! And the First Calligra Sprint in Berlin is already coming up, and I haven’t got my train tickets yet… Oh well, first things first. The MWC! (I’m sure to be the last MWC attendant to blog, so there’s value in there as well…)

MWC is a huge event, with tens of thousands of visitors in a sprawling setting with eight enormous halls. We went there on behalf of KO, invited by Intel, to show off Calligra running on MeeGo at the Intel App-Up booth.

We had three versions of Calligra to show: the desktop version, the mobile phone version (formerly called FreOffice, now renamed to Calligra Mobile) and an experimental tablet prototype that has support for multi-touch pinching and zooming. We intended to show that the Calligra engine really is kind of the webkit for office document apps — a story we kept repeating.

But in general, the concept of open source or free software seems to on the retreat, if the MWC is any indication. There were a few free software companies with a booth of their own, but they got hardly any interest. And whenever we gave our spiel about Calligra being a free and open engine for office software, just like webkit, we mostly did’t get much response. Similar for MeeGo at the MeeGo pavillion: people were interested in it, interested in the hardware, but the upstream-first, open nature of MeeGo didn’t seem to interest anyone much.

It might just be the kind of audience, but I think that Nokia retreating back into the comfort zone of closed source, proprietary development might have something to do with it. Even though Nokia’s announcement isn’t the end of MeeGo — Intel is pretty much committed, as they were when they were on their own with Moblin, and Nokia still develops it as a research project, like they did with Maemo, and there are still plenty partners in the consortium, it still is a watershed moment for the open source world. The trend of increasing openness and cooperation is quite clearly reversed.

What people seemed to repeat to us most was something like this: Apple succeeded with completely proprietary systems, Google succeeded with grabbing code and dumping back what they had to. Nokia twice tried to engage with the community to build their product. They failed twice. Proprietary development vs Open Source, score: 2 – 0. It’s very hard to discuss this idea, especially since Nokia did not do anything really wrong in their engagement with first KOffice and now Calligra.

About Nokia… The Nokia booths and developer days were very, very weird. Especially because everywhere Nokia was still giving out the pre-Friday message: Qt everywhere, MeeGo cool, Symbian cool… They were even handing out E7 phones. The Qt booth had some pretty impressive demos as well. Down to “Qt Everywhere” posters in the Nokia lounge.

Android is clearly everywhere. And that makes the release of an alpha version of a Qt for Android SDK so incredibly important. With Android and WebOS running Qt apps, the only place where Qt isn’t, is Windows Phone 7. (By the way… I made a Windows Phone 7 phone crash by playing with the pre-installed Microsoft Office app on it.)

Whenever I make a trip, I like to have some time exploring the place. I didn’t get to see the Sagrada Familia, instead I got lost a bit in the Barri Gotic, saw the remains of the Roman walls and visited a wonderful fresh food market. And one afternoon I took an hour or two off to visit the Catalan Art Museum. Parts of it were closed, like the romance art section, but the parts that were open were fantastic. The gothic art, frescoes and paintings, were different enough from the flemish art that it became interesting and the sculpture collection had some very interesting pieces, even in the modern section.

All in all, a great experience, very educational and a wonderful city to visit. The City Part Hotel Sant Just we stayed at had such great food that we never really went out for dinner anywhere!