During an interview in Finland, Linus Torvalds who is the man behind the Linux kernel and the excellent Git source-control software, expressed his frustration if not sheer anger with NVIDIA, which he says is “the worst trouble spot” that he ever had to work with, before giving the finger to the camera. [00:49 video in the full post]
Basically, Linus Torvalds is unhappy about the fact that NVIDIA is not supporting Linux enough for his taste (NVIDIA Linux drivers page). According to him, this is even more infuriating as NVIDIA is going “hot” into the Android handset market, which is Linux-based, which implies that NVIDIA would have a moral obligation to support Linux. This outburst was triggered by a question from a Linux user who noticed that support for some NVIDIA features like Optimus, which switches the GPU on and off to save power, came to Linux very late (thanks to a github project), and that NVIDIA said that they would not support Linux at the same level that they do with other OSes, namely Windows, Android and Mac OS X.
Of course, while this makes for good drama, it is hardly surprising that NVIDIA won’t dedicate to Linux the kind of resources that they put into Windows, Mac OS or Android. There are thousands of software engineers working on Windows alone, so even a company like NVIDIA can’t just snap its fingers and provide great support for yet another OS without using extensive resources.
The NVIDIA Linux driver issue isn’t new. Linux users have been complaining for years about this, and AMD has even tried to fill the gap at some point by releasing open-source drivers. NVIDIA has refused to release an Open-Source driver because they say that it would expose information that is critically important to the company. It’s called “Intellectual Property” and surprisingly, companies who spend more than $500 Million developing a chip want to protect that.
Obviously, whining and gesturing at the camera is one way to go at it, but maybe a more efficient way to do it is to use the competitor’s Linux hardware and driver and let the market forces do their job. And maybe that’s the issue: although Linux is a great platform, the business logic would dictate that NVIDIA has to dedicate its resources towards where they can actually make money: elsewhere.