With the recent announcement from Apple that Steve Jobs is taking a medical leave and subsequent stock drop of 4% instantly (it did recover after their earnings announcement) I began to wonder if people really think that the entire company is 100% dependent on Steve Jobs and cannot function without him. Obviously, he is just one person and sets the overall direction and vision of the company but there are thousands of Apple employees doing their jobs every day to execute on that vision. It seems to me that Apple has created a mess by promoting Jobs as the only person making any decisions thus their dependency on Steve Jobs being their CEO. Clearly, they have created a monster that will catch up with them.
So, does the Linux community have a similar problem when it comes to Linus Torvalds and the Linux kernel? What will happen the day that Linus decides to call it quits and move on from Linux; yes that day will eventually come? My initial reaction was to make the equivalence between Linus and Jobs as they both are seen as the guru of their technology and undisputed leaders. However, there is a critical difference between the two visionaries: the Linux kernel has multiple leaders responsible for different parts of the technology and the decision making for the kernel is not held in 1 place, but is spread out amongst the community.
The power of community ensures that no single person, no matter how important, can emerge as the glorious leader without whom the project would collapse. Just think, the day will come when Steve Jobs will leave Apple, be it health issues or otherwise, and Apple will face a deluge of journalists detailing how they are doomed without their leader. This will bring down the stock value of the company and also create customer reluctance, as the brand will suffer. In contrast, the day Linus retires from Linux will be a celebration of his monumental achievement for the open source movement as well as computing operating systems and will certainly not be seen as the end of Linux.
OK, time for your comments – do you agree or is Linux really so dependent on Linus that it faces the “Jobs Dilemma”?
Stephen Spector is the community manager of the open source OpenStack cloud platform community which develops solutions and technology for public and private cloud infrastructures. He is responsible for all things OpenStack, except for the software itself.
Stephen is an old school C developer for Real-Time embedded systems and a long time alliance and developer program manager longing for the good old days when technology upheavals only occurred every six months. You can follow him on Twitter and the OpenStack blog.