Linus Torvalds, the man so often centre stage at tech gatherings, only had a cameo role during Transmeta's unveiling of its top-secret Crusoe chip family Tuesday.
Torvalds -- creator of the Linux kernel and, coincidentally, a Transmeta employee -- walked on stage briefly after the company unveiled its new chips, but only to demonstrate his Quake playing skills and how well the game runs on Linux and Transmeta chips. Torvalds came out shooting but was no KillCreek -- having trouble staying alive for more than a few seconds.
It was ironic that, Quake cameo aside, Torvalds was never the focus of the Crusoe demonstration, since the fledgling company owes much of the attention its launch received to his tech-cult status. In fact, the celebrity programmer didn't even rate a mention in the biography of Transmeta's major players.
"I like to think that they thought that everyone knew who I was," Torvalds quipped about his bio-less status during a question and answer session with reporters.
Actually, Torvalds isn't profiled because he isn't a Transmeta executive. Instead, he's working in the trenches as part of the software team developing Transmeta's Code Morphing chip software and Mobile Linux. "I'm here, but I'm not supposed to be the main point of this at all," he said, telling attendees to focus on the company's technology.
In keeping with Torvalds' open-source philosophy, the company will release the code of its Mobile Linux distribution to the public. However, its Code Morphing software will remain closed.
Torvalds said he took the job at Transmeta over other higher-paying jobs at other high-tech companies because the technology impressed him, and because the company was pursuing completely new projects. "I just decided nobody was as exciting as Transmeta, and I still haven't seen anything as exciting as Transmeta on a technical level," Torvalds said.
Torvalds has said repeatedly at Linux events that he thinks the mobile market -- which Transmeta is targeting -- is one of the most exciting spaces for Linux development.
Not that the company didn't give him credit for his contributions. James Chapman, Transmeta's vice president of sales and marketing, said Torvalds was one of the key developers of its products. "If you were going to build a software-based CPU, who would you choose?" he asked.
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