Operating Systems and Servers News

15 February 2008
Vista weakness could feed Linux growth

By Matthew Broersma, Techworld

The maturing expectations of desktop operating systems have given Linux a
better chance than ever of denting the desktop - even as they have helped
down Windows Vista, says Linus Torvalds.

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In a recently published interview with the Linux Foundation, Torvalds said
he believes desktop operating systems have become far more stable than in
the 1990s, even as the capabilities of hardware continue to expand
dramatically.

Desktops changed dramatically during the 1990s, mainly because of the
Internet boom, but since then have become more or less a known quantity,
in Torvalds' view.

Ten years ago, it was difficult for Linux to make any headway against
Microsoft, because Microsoft was able to keep "moving the goalposts" in a
period where people expected new features to be added to the desktop.

But the situation has become more stable now, which has contributed to
Vista's adoption troubles, Torvalds said.

"One the reasons people are having issues with Vista now, is that it’s
much harder to – for one company - to kind of change the market and when
the market has matured," he said. "People today are not probably using the
desktop all that differently from what they were five years ago, which
didn’t used to be true."

At the same time, this could give Linux an opening, because it puts the
open source operating system on a more level playing field against
Microsoft, Torvalds argued.

"Now you can’t have one company that kind of tries to move the goal
post, because if it keeps trying to move the goal post, that’s just
going to irritate that company’s own constituents," he said.

Linux is best known as a server operating system, but surprisingly,
Torvalds said he has never personally been interested in Linux on the
server.

"I have never, ever even run a Linux server and I don’t even want to;
it’s not what I’m interested in," he said. "The Linux desktop is why I
got into Linux in the first place. I mean, I have never, ever cared about
really anything but the Linux desktop."

Indeed, in Torvalds' view kernel developers often have the desktop as
their top priority - or at least the features of it that are necessary to
developers.

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"Maybe servers is a huge market, when you actually look at developers,
what developers interact with all the time is their workstation, their
desktop," he said. "That's the area where you really eat your own dog food
and where you really end up seeing the fruits of your labour."

Torvalds also revealed that he is highly competitive, and is personally
motivated by competition within the developer community.

"I work weekdays, I work weekends, I work 52 weeks a year," he said. "I
don’t want there to be any question of who’s the best maintainer."

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