With the imminent release of Windows Vista to consumers this month, Linus Torvalds, the father of Linux, has claimed Microsoft’s latest desktop effort is over-hyped and not a revolutionary advance.
“I don’t actually think that something like Vista will change how people work that much,” Torvalds told Computerworld Australia. “I think it, to some degree, has been over-hyped as being something completely new and I don’t actually think it is.”
In Sydney for this year’s linux.conf.au Linux and open-source conference last month, Torvalds said the Vista interfaces may look different but don’t really change fundamentals of the operating system “in many ways”.
“One of the things we will probably notice is the hardware requirements for Vista are obviously much higher, and that could end up helping Linux just because people notice that you can run Linux on machines and have it work very well even if that same machine couldn’t run Vista at all,” he says.
That said, Torvalds sees a lot of opportunities for Linux in the embedded space and in mobile phones, in addition to the desktop.
“In many ways the exciting, revolutionary things tend to happen elsewhere than the desktop,” he says.
“The desktop market is fairly well defined. People know what they want to do with their desktop, you want to have your word processor, you want to have some eye candy and 3D graphical stuff. We know that, and Linux handles that very well, [so] we need to continue to support it and slowly get more and more people used to Linux and that’s going to take some time.”
Torvalds says a lot of the problem involves “inherent inertia,” where a lot of users are used to whatever operating system they are using, whether it be Mac OS X or Windows.
“Overcoming that inertia is not about ‘this year’,” he says. “We will make more strides towards it but I’m not going to say it’s going to be this year.”
While not conceding the desktop space to the established players, Torvalds admits the desktop is one of the areas that is the hardest to crack “by far” because it depends so much on both the hardware and users.
“A lot of the things we have done over the last few years is supporting, gracefully, something as simple as plugging in a camera into the computer,” he says.
“You want the user experience to be that [the computer] not only knows the camera is there but also brings up all the applications automatically and all these different things have to talk to each other.
“That’s one of the things we have done a lot of work on and now it’s largely out of the kernel’s hands and the vendors end up supporting the desktop experience a lot more.”