Linus Benedict Torvalds

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A freely distributed operating system that functions on many different platforms, Linux is important to e-commerce because of its increasing use as an operating system for Web servers. The system thrives in multi-user, networked environments and runs on a range of hardware configurations, including PCs, Macintoshes, high-end workstations, and many servers and network devices. Besides its compatibility with different platforms, Linux has also attracted widespread attention because many consider it faster, more robust, and more economical compared to other operating systems.

Linux is open-source software, meaning that the system's code has been developed over time by many different individuals working collaboratively. Although in the early 2000s it wasn't the dominant operating system for e-commerce, Linux was making steady gains on more commonly used systems like Windows 2000, OS/400, HP-UX, Solaris, and AIX. According to Informationweek, Dell Computer CEO Michael Dell predicted that, by 2003, his company would sell 27 percent of its servers with Linux preinstalled. In the same issue, Hewlett-Packard Chief Scientist Joel Birnbaum noted that Linux could become the preferred operating system for many users by 2010.

Although it once held a predominantly cult status, Linux was gaining wider acceptance among many corporate users in the early 2000s, especially those in academia, financial services, telecommunications and the government. The system's acceptance in the financial industry is especially important for its long-term success in the area of e-commerce because Web sites in that industry are among the busiest and most demanding, especially for processing transactions.

The Linux kernel, or the program's essential core, was created in the early 1990s by Linus Torvalds, a Finnish computer science student. According to writer Gerry Dorman, Torvalds developed Linux as an alternative to the Unix operating system, which he found to be expensive and incompatible with PCs. Torvalds based his creation on a Unix-like program called Minix. Because it adheres to a number of Unix standards and architectures, Linux is often seen as part of the Unix lineage, as a particular implementation of Unix.

The resulting stability and adaptability have carried Linux far. "One of the things that fascinates us about Linux is that it was designed to be hardware-independent," explained Scott Handy, director of Linux solutions marketing for IBM in a Planet IT article by Anne Zieger. "Porting Linux from platform to platform is very simple." IBM's backing of Linux is in fact one of the fledgling system's greatest achievements from a marketing standpoint. In late 2000, IBM Chairman Louis Gerstner, pointing out that Linux was growing at twice the rate of Windows NT, announced the computer giant would invest $1 billion in the system's development. "Some estimate it will become even more prevalent than NT by 2004," he said in the December 12, 2000 issue of Planet IT. "This is a big issue for every server company."


Burke, Steven. "IBM Stakes $1 Billion Bet On Linux." Planet IT, December 12, 2000. Available from

Dorman, Gerry. "LinuxOverview and Installation." Planet IT, June 3, 1999. Available from

McDougall, Paul, Elisabeth Goodridge, and Tony Kontzer. "Dell, HP, and IBM Step Up Linux Efforts." Informationweek, August 21, 2000.

Radding, Alan. "Linux in Stealth Mode on Wall Street." Planet IT, October 23, 2000. Available from

Yager, Tom. "Is Linux Ready for E-Commerce?" InfoWorld. March 27, 2000.

Zieger, Anne. "IBM Embraces Linux Throughout Its Line." Planet IT, December 27, 2000. Available from


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Linus Benedict Torvalds, 1969–, Finnish-American computer software engineer. A member of Finland's Swedish-speaking minority, he attended the Univ. of Helsinki (M.S., 1996), where he also taught. In the early 1990s he began working on a Unix-like operating system for personal computers built with Intel microprocessors, leading to the release of version 1.0 of the Linux kernel in 1994. Together with other free software developed under the GNU public license, Linux has become the core of a stable, graphical operating system that has been freely installed and improved by millions of computer users looking for an alternative to systems developed by Microsoft, Apple, and other companies. Most commonly, however, it is used on servers, and it also has largely replaced Unix as the operating system most commonly used by supercomputers. From 1997 to 2003 Torvalds worked at Transmeta Corp. in California as a software developer while continuing to supervise the development of the Linux kernel. In 2003 he became a fellow at Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), a Linux-development consortium in Beaverton, Oreg.; OSDL was merged in 2007 into the Linux Foundation (est. 2007), which now sponsors his work. In 2012 he, along with stem-cell researcher Shinya Yamanaka, was awared the Millennium Technology Prize. Torvalds became a U.S. citizen in 2010.

See his autobiography (with D. Diamond, 2001).

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Linux An operating system based on UNIX and written originally by Linus Torvalds. The system is freely available and the source code is open. Linux has been developed by a large number of world-wide collaborators. It works on PCs and Macintosh computers.