If you were Linus starting Linux...

So I was reading this article about how Linus started Linux:

This seems like a question with an obvious answer, but how could Linus have become wealthy? Could he have started a company like Dell, Microsoft or Red Hat?

Let me take a whack at this and focus on Microsoft in particular, the obvious (at least in my mind) competitor in the OS space that Linux lives in.

What made Microsoft successful in the first place was marketing. I don’t have a measure for how good a marketing person Linus is but my read of his personality says he really doesn’t care about marketing and I’m willing to be wrong on that.

In my mind the difference between Windows in all its flavors and Linux in all its flavor rests in the difference between my wife as a computer user and myself as an olde tyme computer hobbyist. My wife expects to be able to just use the computer to read email, write documents and browse the web. If she can do those three things she’s a happy camper. She in lots of ways is an excellent case study of the average Windows user.

I’m not satisfied with that. I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t just throw gas in the car and drives off. I want to know what’s under the hood and have been known to tinker under there as well putting it mildly. (Gee… there’s a replacement chip for the fuel computer…)

Likewise in my Linux world I am apt to tinker with the Kernel (to my peril sometimes) and play with drivers, and all sorts of stuff like that. I don’t want to be shielded from the underpinnings of the OS like my wife does.

I’m kinda glad that Linux never got overly commercialized. There is RedHat for those in the business world that want things shrink wrapped. That’s a good thing. Leave the community stuff alone…

How exactly do you define wealthy? According to his biography, Linus has made some millions with redhat shares alone. He might not be a billionaire, but he’s far from being average income.

And people helped him pay off his PC very early in linux history.


Linus is an engineer in reality and at heart. He loves to code. Others are responsible for the business end of Linux. Linus makes his appearances as a spokesperson when needed and then he’s back to evaluating code for the kernel. When you see where his passion focuses, it becomes obvious where his attention is. He makes a great living by chance really.