Interview with Linus Torvalds -- "On Being Linus" (page 7)

Interview with Linus Torvalds

Apr 9, 2001

Q: Looking at the factors that have made Open Source successful for developing software, do you think it could apply to other industries, for example, hardware?

A: I don't think hardware is necessarily the best industry to apply it to. I think Open Source is really an issue of information. And information is only useful in areas where the information is the most important thing. In many hardware areas, information is often very expensive. But it's equally expensive sometimes to produce the chips or produce the cards or something like that, so you have a noticeable amount of the expense coming from the actual raw materials.

Q: I was thinking perhaps medicine?

A: I suspect that's one area where it might be very interesting. If you look at where the cost is, it is almost never in making the drug. Eventually -- we haven't reached that point yet -- but it might be that if you look at genetics and see who is trying to de-code and understand what it's all about, there's a number of commercial companies in there, too, but there's a number of universities. And depending on what happens to the intellectual property rights in that area, it might well be that a lot of intellectual property might be more of an Open Source kind of property, if it's developed at a university, and I think that would be a good thing. But I'm biased.

Q: How about opening up Transmeta CMS (Code Morphing Software - editor) software as Open Source?

A: We discussed it at length inside Transmeta, especially among the engineers. One of the issues, this is the usual issue, in all cases, people were nervous about what would happen. So we open sourced part of what we do, but we haven't open sourced CMS itself. The question is maybe still on the table, but it's not actually discussed.

Q: You prefer to work on Open Source but you're not going to be dogmatic about it?

A: Yes, if I do something for fun, if I do something because it's my interest and if I don't have any other external issues, I'm going to Open Source it. But no, I'm not religious about it. I think that Open Source is the almost certainly the best way to get the best technology. It's not necessarily the best way to get a company where it wants to be, always. Sometimes the two go hand-in-hand, sometimes they don't. So you have to make that position. In my opinion, it's not my decision to make.