Torvalds on where Linux is headed in 2008

A key benefit of Linux, and Open Source in general, is flexibility. Linus underscores this in a recent interview:

In your opinion, where does Linux shine versus Windows? Reliability? Virtualisation?

I think the real strength of Linux is not in any particular area, but in the flexibility. For example, you mention virtualisation, and in some ways that’s a really excellent example, because it’s not only an example of something where Linux is a fairly strong player, but more tellingly, it’s an example where there are actually many different approaches, and there is no one-size-fits-all “One True Virtualisation” model.

There are many different levels of virtualisation, and many different trade-offs in efficiency, management, separation, running legacy applications and system software, etc. And different people simply care about different parts of it, which is why the buzz-word “virtualisation” shows up in so many places.

And not only do we tend to support many different models of virtualisation, but one telling detail may be that I am personally so totally uninterested in it, that I am really happy that I have almost nothing to do with any of them.

And I mention that as a strong point of open source! Why? Because it actually is a great example of what open source results in: one person’s (or company’s) particular interests don’t end up being dominant. The fact that I personally think that virtualisation isn’t all that exciting means next to nothing.

This is actually the biggest strength of Linux. When you buy an OS from Microsoft, not only you can’t fix it, but it has had years of being skewed by one single entity’s sense of the market. It doesn’t matter how competent Microsoft — or any individual company — is, it’s going to reflect that fact. In contrast, look at where Linux is used. Everything from cellphones and other small embedded computers that people wouldn’t even think of as computers, to the bulk of the biggest machines on the supercomputer Top-500 list. That is flexibility. And it stems directly from the fact that anybody who is interested can participate in the development, and no single entity ends up being in control of where it all goes.

And what does that then lead to? Linux ends up being very good at a lot of different things, and rather well-rounded in general. It’s also very adept at taking up any new niche, because regardless of where you want to put it, not only has somebody else probably looked at something related before but you don’t have to go through license hassles to get permission to do a pilot project.

You’ll see Linux in more places than almost any other OS. Open Source is the reason for this. As Linus mentions, anyone can jump in and makes Linux do whatever it is they need to do. From a DVR to a watch to a storage deice to a super computer – Linux is not only there, it’s doing well. I’ve also always liked how Linus frames Microsoft:

I simply don’t use Microsoft products, not because I hate them, but because they aren’t interesting to me.

He doesn’t bash and doesn’t instigate – a bit refreshing really.


One Response to Torvalds on where Linux is headed in 2008

  1. corey says:

    This is a great example of why I’ve always respected Linus Torvolds. He has class. While others are out there trying to bolster their view or position by belittling or demeaning others, he rises above and bats any instigation off with nonchalance. I think that he has the perfect answer when people are trying to goad him into saying something bad about Microsoft (ever notice that we always identify with polarity? Stan Lee knows all about that). He just shrugs it off as irrelevant, as it should be in his case. His comparisons seem to be not, “us vs them”, but rather “what was it and what could it be”. Its a more productive attitude by far. Cheers.

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