Steve Jobs tried to hire Linus Torvalds

“If you meet Linus Torvalds, he comes off as a mild-mannered, down-to-earth Finnish-American. He lives with his wife Tove, three kids, a cat, a dog, a snake, a goldfish, a bunny and a pet rat in a comfortable 6,000 square foot home just north of Portland’s tony Lake Oswego neighborhood. The house is yellow — his favorite color — and so’s the Mercedes,” Robert McMillan reports for Wired.

“But he’s not really like any of his neighbors. He drives his Mercedes fast, slamming the car into gear and flooring it. There’s no coaxing, no hesitation. Either the hammer is down, or the car is at rest,” McMillan reports. “And he has an abnormal number of stuffed penguins on his mantle.”

McMillan reports, “Red Hat can thank Linus for reaching $1 billion in annual revenue. And Linus can thank Red Hat for his yellow house in Portland. Prior to its initial public offering in 1999, Red Hat gave Torvalds what turned out to be about $1 million in stock. But Torvalds says that it was his only big Linux payout. Stock that he was awarded from Transmeta and another Linux startup, VA Systems, wasn’t worth very much by the time he was allowed to sell it.”

“Torvalds has never met Bill Gates, but around 2000, when he was still working at Transmeta, he met Steve Jobs. Jobs invited him to Apple’s Cupertino campus and tried to hire him. ‘Unix for the biggest user base: that was the pitch,’ says Torvalds. The condition: He’d have to drop Linux development. ‘He wanted me to work at Apple doing non-Linux things,’ he said. That was a non-starter for Torvalds. Besides, he hated Mac OS’s Mach kernel,” McMillan reports. “‘I said no,’ Torvalds remembers.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Costly decision. Not quite Ron Wayne-esque, but very costly nonetheless.


  1. Torvalds has never been about making a ton of money, he has said so himself.

    From the way he talks it sounds like he has it pretty well, he gets to spend time doing the things he loves and you can’t ask for much more than that in life.

      1. Exactly. He followed his dream/convictions and seems to live a pretty comfortable life.

        Now if he wound up living off welfare or as a bag person, that might be different.

    1. Jobs were never about the money either, but he did things so well that he got a lot of money.
      Jobs wanted to change the world and make a better place it, and he did it pretty well.
      If Linus wanted to any good, he make huge mistake not joining apple.
      He is a very good programmer, but he was most about being against big companies more than being in favor of good products.

      1. Oh please. If he had been weak and or greedy he would have worked for Jobs. However he was neither. I can just imagine Steve going into one of his bullying tirades and Linus would have told him to just shove it. No, he knows he made the right decision.

    1. Torvalds… good for him… he is set for life. He got a little too much credit for Linux IMHO. but whatever… in any case, his disdain for Apple’s OS foundation will only continue… iOS… basically a branch off of OS X lite (as Jobs once implied) but with a bunch of interface and power management stuff… Linux? Hey… it does its job behind the scenes…

      1. If there are two ways to get a job done it doesn’t follow that one of them is wrong. The Mach kernel works for OSX. Who cares if Linux takes a different approach?

  2. He is one of those guys who does things his way or not at all.

    He and Steve would have butted heads from the get-go.

    Linus wouldn’t have lasted very long if he had taken the leap.

    1. Agreed. The two were enough alike in the (my way or the highway) realm of thinking that surely they would have ended up face to face in a showdown.

      God that would have been epic to witness.

  3. Regarding MDN’s take. It depends on how you look at it. Linus is doing what he wants to do. Can’t criticize that. I think Jobs would have understood and respected Linus even more for his decision.

  4. Steve Jobs, visionary.

    Linus Torvalds, missionary. As in he took it in the rear, missionary style.

    OS X prospered without Torvalds. OS X led to iOS. So you could say his impact was minimal in Apple land. I guess he got screwed over by Google who adopted Linux for Android and paid him not a penny.

    1. Torvalds was not screwed by anyone. He never set out to get rich off Linux though he ended up very well off from it regardless.

      No impact in Appleland? What do you want to bet a big chunk of icloud and Apple’s infrastructure runs on Linux?

      Linus Torvalds, like Steve Jobs, completely changed the game and the world. Industries fell, companies died off and computing has been changed forever due to Linux. The difference is Linux is behind the scenes so we don’t always realise just how much impact it has had.

      1. Well, it could be argued that Google is screwing Torvalds by taking his free, open-source OS and forking it off into a semi-closed, commercial, privacy violating, data-mining, Orwellian monstrosity that undermines almost all of the ideology behind Linux.

        1. He does not care, and sees forks of Linux as a good thing since he can always take their ideas and code that he likes and use them in the mainstream linux kernel. He says so in this video:

          Linus says what he thinks about it in this video:

          Linus is really focused on the Kernel alone, and not the sum of the parts which make up a complete Operating System.

          I think for him to have a problem with a fork of Linux would require someone to make significant and good changes to Linux and then refuse to give that source back when he came calling for it. I could be wrong on that (i do not know the man) and it is purely my own opinion.

  5. I call BS on the statement of “not being about making a ton of money”. People who buy 6,000 sq ft homes in the Country Club neighborhood of Lake Oswego and drive Mercedes are ALL about making a ton of money. That sounds like a statement people make to justify their bad decisions that cost them Millions if not Billions. Certainly he has done well… So I’m sure he’s ok with his choices… But don’t say he’s not about making a ton of money.

    1. Making a ton of money as a side-effect of making something cool that people like to use and setting out with the specific goal of making a ton of money are two completely different things.

  6. Hiring Linus Torvalds and asking him to renounce Linux is like hiring Bill Gates and asking him to give up Windows. Or like hiring Albert Einstein and asking him to give up science. Or like hiring Jesus and asking him to give up Chrstianity.

  7. Thank God he said no!!! Otherwise, we’d all be downloading and compiling our apps while waiting for the next perpetual beta to land and troubleshooting esoteric networking issues.

    Not to mention the horrid names OS X would have had to endure, like Emperor, Galapagos, Gentoo, King, and Macaroni.

  8. “Costly decision. Not quite Ron Wayne-esque, but very costly nonetheless.”……..Yes maybe if money was his focus, if it was he would have sold the linux kernel…. Macdnews… success is only measured by the size of your bank balance aye??

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