Linux Creator Leaves Transmeta to Work on Kernel

Linus Torvalds, the quiet-spoken creator of Linux, is leaving his position with chipmaker Transmeta to focus all his energies on the Linux kernel.

In a note to the Linux-Kernel mailing list Monday, in which he announced the release of version 2.5.72 of the kernel, Torvalds said he would leave Transmeta to join the non-profit Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), an industry-sponsored consortium that invests in development efforts to improve the operating platform’s enterprise capabilities.

“The other big news — well for me personally, anyway — is that I’ve decided to take a leave of absence after 6+ years at Transmeta to actually work full-time on the kernel,” Torvalds told list members. “Transmeta has always been very good at letting me spend even an inordinate amount of time on Linux, but as a result I’ve been feeling a little guilty at just how little “real work” I got done lately. To fix that, I’ll instead be working at OSDL, finally actually doing Linux as my main job.”

He added, “I do not expect a huge amount of change as a result, testament to just how freely Transmeta has let me do Linux work.”

Torvalds will leave his position as Transmeta Fellow to become OSDL’s first OSDL Fellow. There, the organization said, he will work exclusively on leading the development of Linux, guiding a team of thousands of developers around the world. OSDL said he will help set priorities and direction for the Lab’s different industry initiatives.

“It feels a bit strange to finally officially work on what I’ve been doing for the last 12 years, but with the upcoming 2.6.x release it makes sense to be able to concentrate fully on Linux,” Torvalds said in a statement Tuesday. “OSDL is the perfect setting for vendor-independent and neutral Linux development.”

Bringing Torvalds — who crafted Linux in 1991 while in university in Finland — onboard also enhances OSDL’s credibility.

“Linus Torvalds adds tremendous credibility to OSDL’s efforts to drive the evolution of Linux forward into enterprise computing and carrier environments,” said George Weiss, vice president and research director for research firm Gartner (Quote, Company Info). “The computing market is still questioning how far and how fast Linux can go as an enterprise-ready platform. With Linus at OSDL, many will be looking for leadership from the lab for answers to those questions.”

Echoing Weiss’ sentiments, Stuart Cohen, CEO of OSDL, added, “Linus’ decision to join us is a confirmation of the importance of our mission. OSDL is the only organization where Linux developers, customers and vendors can all participate as equals. The addition of Linus’ perspective and guidance to the Lab will enhance our value to all three of these groups.”

OSDL has been one of the organizations leading Linux into the enterprise from its roots as a hobbyist project. The organization, with data centers in Portland, Ore. and Yokohama, Japan, was founded in 2000 with backing from Computer Associates, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, and NEC. It sponsors projects like Data Center Linux and Carrier Grade Linux.

Transmeta, a member of OSDL, said it supports Torvalds’ decision.

“Linus has made substantial technological contributions as a member of our development team here at Transmeta,” said Matthew Perry, president and CEO of Transmeta. “Transmeta appreciates and fully supports Linus’ strong interest in devoting his attention and energy to certain emerging industry-wide open source initiatives at OSDL.”

Torvalds’ move may also some political implications, as it comes at a time when former Linux distributor SCO Group is attempting to cast doubt on the legality of Linux with claims that Linux kernel has illegally incorporated portions of its copyrighted Unix source code. However, Torvalds has a reputation for being apolitical.