When Linus Torvalds visited Aalto University in June, the visit resulted in the Linux pioneer giving Nvidia the finger — an outburst that became the university's most watched YouTube clip. Torvalds made a follow-up visit on Tuesday, but promised students there would be "no fingers this time".
In his return to the Finnish university, this year's winner of Technology Academy Finland's Millennium Technology Prize promised to discuss almost any question thrown at him. Off the cards were two notable subjects: Nvidia, which famously attracted Torvalds' ire for refusing to ensure its hardware worked with his open-source software, and Nokia.
Torvalds would not be drawn on Nokia's choice of Windows Phone over the Linux-based MeeGo smartphone platform.
"I'm not going to answer the Nokia question. There is no upside for me. Whatever, don't even ask me," he said.
Torvalds did discuss other mobile OSes, however, saying he was grateful to Google's Android for doing for consumer mobile what Linux so far has not been able to achieve on the desktop.
"I'm not going to answer the Nokia question. There is no upside for me. Whatever, don't even ask me" — Linus Torvalds
"Before Android there had been people trying to do Linux on cell phones, more or less successfully — mostly less — but people used to feel that hey, user interfaces and actual consumer products was not something that Linux was necessarily famous for and Android changed that," he said.
While Torvalds highlighted Android's positive impact on Linux, he also suggested that Linux may yet provide a successful alternative to the Google platform's dominance.
Asian device makers, such as Samsung or LG, could eventually create their own open-source Android competitor, according to Torvalds, as a result of concerns about their lack of control over the Google OS.
"Android is clearly very dominant in that space, but there are companies working on MeeGo and working on Tizen in Asia in particular and Korea, which have noticed that they used to be hardware manufacturers. Partly thanks to Linux some of these companies that used to create hardware for software that other people wrote have now been able to say, 'We can control our own destiny and write our own software on top of Linux'.
"I was in Korea a few weeks ago and talked to Samsung and LG. They are a bit nervous about Android because they are not Google. They also want to do their own operating system also because they want to be in control."
Could Jolla, the Finnish smartphone start-up founded by ex-Nokia workers, provide an alternative? Torvalds said he hadn't followed the "MeeGo resurrection company" but he was "hopeful that they will be successful and that there will be a plan B".
"Maybe Jolla will convince Nokia to rethink their stance," he added.