Torvalds: Look for Linux on desktops and phones

Linus Torvalds told his followers to prepare for Linux on the desktop, but not necessarily anytime soon.

Torvalds told a crowd of about 400 people during a meeting of the Bay Area Linux Users Group Tuesday night that he personally would concentrate on the Linux kernel for many years to come. "A lot of the excitement is going to be in the user space," he declared.

Speaking on a small stage in a packed banquet hall of a restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown, Torvalds said the desktop is by far the most exciting space because people are using their computers for many different tasks and it's one area where some users "just do very, very strange things."

"I don't expect the desktop to come quickly," Torvalds said. "It'll take time." He predicted the move would start slowly with desktop terminals dedicated to one purpose, such as those installed by Burlington Coat Factory. "The strength of Linux is that it's flexible," Torvalds said, adding that it can scale down to embedded devices such as phones and set-top boxes. "It's certainly a very attractive market."

To pursue that market, he said developers would have to do several things, including creating a special file system for flash cards and cutting down the size of the kernel to make it more modular.

Torvalds also predicted that the next version of the Linux kernel would be out by the autumn, though he said the date could slip. He also said that Linux versions would include USB support and the ability to scale to a larger number of processors.

One attendee asked Torvalds whether he was worried about the kernel fragmenting. Torvalds predicted various distributions of Linux would differentiate themselves by running better on different devices, but he said it wouldn't splinter in the same way that Unix has.

Take me to the Linux Lounge