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Linus Torvalds Promotes Linux for Desktops, Embedded Computing

What's the future of Linux for desktop computers and embedded devices? That's a question up for debate, but Linux founder and open source superstar Linus Torvalds provided some intriguing viewpoints in a discussion at the Linux Foundation's recent LinuxCon event.

Christopher Tozzi

August 25, 2014

2 Min Read
Linus Torvalds Promotes Linux for Desktops, Embedded Computing

What's the future of Linux for desktop computers and embedded devices? That's a question up for debate, but Linux founder and open source superstar Linus Torvalds provided some intriguing viewpoints in a discussion at the Linux Foundation's recent LinuxCon event.

As the guy who wrote the first Linux kernel code and shared it publicly over the Internet back in 1991, Torvalds is without doubt among the most famous developers of open source software—or any software, really—alive today. And while Torvalds is only one individual among many thousands of people and organizations guiding the development of Linux, his opinions tend to be influential with the open source community, and his role as a lead kernel developer places him in a powerful position for deciding which features and code make it into the operating system.

So it's worth paying attention when Torvalds says, "I still want the desktop," as he did last week at LinuxCon. It's a sign that he still sees a future for Linux as an operating system for powering personal PCs, even though desktop Linux market share has remained minuscule and relatively flat for more than a decade, and most of the commercial activity around Linux these days involves servers or Android-powered mobile hardware.

But, Torvalds added, ensuring a strong future for desktop Linux means solving an "infrastructure problem" that stems, he seems to believe, from the broader open source software ecosystem and the hardware world. It's not the core Linux code itself that's at issue, and making the channel friendly for desktop Linux is a feat Torvalds and his fellow kernel developers probably have little power to achieve on their own. That's up to app developers, hardware manufacturers and other parties who have the power to deliver computing platforms based on Linux that people will readily use.

On the other hand, Torvalds also mentioned a hope that kernel developers might streamline the Linux code for embedded devices—a task that might be at odds in some ways with making the kernel more desktop-friendly. But that's not necessarily the case, and at any rate, given that Linux is designed to be so modular, there's no reason a single kernel code base can't meet the needs of desktop users and embedded developers equally well, depending on which chunks they choose to use.

As a longtime desktop Linux user who would also like to see more Linux-powered embedded devices, I'm hoping Torvalds's aspirations in both regards will be realized, and that I will one day be able to do everything I need using only Linux, whether it's on a desktop computer, a mobile phone, the car or anywhere else.

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About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Contributing Editor

Christopher Tozzi started covering the channel for The VAR Guy on a freelance basis in 2008, with an emphasis on open source, Linux, virtualization, SDN, containers, data storage and related topics. He also teaches history at a major university in Washington, D.C. He occasionally combines these interests by writing about the history of software. His book on this topic, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” is forthcoming with MIT Press.

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