Linux Creator: Operating Systems Will Follow Internet Trends

Linus Torvalds told a packed house on Wedneday
that the future of operating systems will follow the current
Internet trend of personalization and customization.

Torvalds, speaking at Internet World, compared the open source experience to tinkering with a car
engine. While “some people just don’t
like tinkering with their cars,” he said that many will
find that the
customization possibilities which open source software
presents will allow users to create a system which better
fits their
individual needs.

The open source leader expects that in the future, the software
industry will move away from creating “standard block”
systems, the
preformulated and packaged versions which are mass
produced for general consumer use, towards the
development of
specialized software for specialized needs. Torvalds
compared this new direction to the pattern which the
Internet has taken:
first money was put into infrastructure, then
personalization, portal directories, and individualized
Web interfaces moved to the

ISPs also served as an example of Internet companies who
had to build their own solutions and create a stable
platform in
order to compete in the market.

Torvalds said he expects that specialization and
personalization will not be carried out through changing
code or dialogue
interface, but through the design of a system. He also
forecast that user interfaces will diverge from the
operating system in
order to allow people to mix and match according to their
own requirements, and to end the unnecessary development
interfaces for systems which do not require them, such as
servers and embedded systems.

“You don’t want tight coupling,” Torvalds said.
“[Developers] will decouple the two as much as possible
to allow user flexibility
to use different parts, and to allow a better
understanding of how the whole system works. You will
want to go for regularity
and interchangeable parts.”

Torvalds said he expects
Linux to enter the market for embedded
systems, citing some initial successes such as Tivo running on set-top box systems.

Responding to a question on what he felt contributed to
the high cellular phone and Internet penetration in his
home country of
Finland, which ranks as the highest per capita population
of Net users, Torvalds said that the country’s small and
population allowed it to quickly upgrade to new products
and designs. In comparison to Finland’s extensive
high-end networks,
he called the United States “a third world country in
terms of infrastructure”, citing American electronic
banking’s continued use
of physical check transfers as an example of the
country’s over-reliance on paper records.

Torvalds also addressed the concern that Netscape is
lagging far behind in the browser wars, saying that just
because a
product is based on the open source model does not mean
it is better. While open source “is not a panacea”,
Torvalds credited
the collapse of Netscape’s Mozilla project with
empowering more outside groups to get involved in taking
the code and
implementing new changes.

“More people want to push browser use, and Mozilla has
also become less arrogant,” he commented.

Torvalds also said he was “very happy” about Sun’s
decision to open its code for Solaris, saying that “while
the license may not
be a very good license, it’s good that they are making
their knowledge available to others.”

He added that he would be thrilled if Microsoft chose to
open some of its code, but called the development highly
Torvalds added that if the code publication did happen,
it would probably only be a limited release for certain
niche markets.
However, Torvalds and several members of the panel
confronted the persistent belief that the movement was
formed in
opposition to megalithic industry leader Microsoft (MSFT). Torvalds himself said that while he
likes several of the Microsoft products, he would prefer
to have them running on a “good” platform.

Torvalds refused to comment on the
future of his current company, Transmeta.

More show coverage.

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