Qt rethinks commercial licensing, so you can distribute apps after your license has expired

Qt commercial license change

The Qt Company, purveyor of the Qt GUI framework and tooling, has tried to make its commercial licensing model easier to grasp and shared the resulting changes in a blog post this week.

From now on, commercial developers can choose between two licenses for application development and another two for device creation when buying the Qt framework and adjacent tooling. The versions differ largely in the amount of features, tooling, and supported deployment targets provided. Pricing starts at $302 per month (only for those choosing to go with a one-year prepayment) for a Professional Application Development license and $329 for the Enterprise variant to which existing Qt for Application Development licenses will be automatically converted.

While the Professional version only comes with installation support and the same features to design user interfaces and develop apps that are available in the open source Community Edition, Enterprise customers also get access to M2M connectivity tools, Qt Quick Compiler Extensions, and standard support, which are mainly things users had to buy separately before.

In terms of pricing for Device Creation tooling not much has changed, as organisations still have to put in a request to receive a quote. Current subscription holders will be moved to a Device Creation Professional license and can decide to level up should the safety tooling and automotive helpers available on the Enterprise layer be needed.

Other than the out of the box inclusion of several add-ons, the Qt licensing team also reworked the license agreements’ requirements. As a result, the Qt liability period has been modified to follow the duration of a subscription instead of lasting 12 months, and developers can now distribute their creations even after their developer license has expired, which wasn’t an option.

In order to address security and maintenance issues however, a valid license will still be necessary. The change therefore only seems to be of interest to professionals who don’t provide patches for their products or just use Qt every now and again for customer projects they don’t have to look after once they are handed over.

The new licensing model also means changes for the upcoming 3.0 release of Qt Design Studio. Exact pricing details haven’t been shared yet, however the new major release will also be available in a Professional and an Enterprise flavour, with Professional matching features and functionality of v2.3 minus the 3rd party bridge plugins and being available to all commercial customers. The Enterprise offering is meanwhile targeted towards technical artists and user interface designers and allows importing assets from graphics tools such as Adobe XD, Maya, and Blender. Additional features are planned, but not openly shared, yet.

Customers on the Small Business License aren’t affected by the modifications, though senior product manager Santtu Ahonen informed users enquiring about upcoming modifications that a license update “based on Qt for Device Creation Professional” should be expected for “later this spring”.

Developers working on open source projects with an interest in Qt can still use the project under open source licenses. However, developments such as The Qt Company deciding to only provide commercial users with LTS releases although open source contributors helped create them led to some unease towards this option. The KDE project for instance had to resort to maintaining its own set of patches to secure its tooling until completing the migration to Qt 6 as a result.