Linus Torvalds on the "four-letter word" called "innovation"

Innovation isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

I think there's a lot of truth in Linus Torvald's derisive comment about innovation, and the software industry's fetish with it.

I think that "innovation" is a four-letter word in the industry. It should never be used in polite company. It's become a PR thing to sell new versions with.

It was Edison who said "1% inspiration, 99% perspiration". That may have been true a hundred years ago. These days it's "0.01% inspiration, 99.99% perspiration", and the inspiration is the easy part. As a project manager, I have never had trouble finding people with crazy ideas. I have trouble finding people who can execute. IOW, "innovation" is way oversold. And it sure as hell shouldn't be applied to products like MS Word or Open office.

Amen. Looking around the industry, there's very little "innovation" going on. The iPhone's interface? Sure. Vista (or, for that matter, Apple's Leopard)? Nah.

These are incremental technology advances backed by good execution. Microsoft isn't Microsoft because it makes "innovative" technology. It's Microsoft because it tends to keep the trains running on time.

Microsoft's problem now isn't innovation on the web. I have little doubt that its online services are as good, or nearly so, as Google's. It's that it doesn't seem to know how to execute a web-centric business.

In open source, we need more talented executors to achieve dominance. Sure, we can innovate, but that's not really the point.

Tags:
Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

    Join the discussion

    Conversation powered by Livefyre

    Show Comments Hide Comments