I admire Linus Torvalds' candor (this is the guy who freely admits his own family doesn't use the Linux desktop, after all), as well as his foresight.
In an excellent interview posted on Simple-Talk, Torvalds covers a range of topics, including the Linux operating system's place in history:
I can certainly imagine the Linux kernel becoming obsolete--anything else would just be sad, really, in the big picture.
He is absolutely right. Much as we may pine for this or that project to achieve market dominance, it is one of the cardinal virtues of open source that there are no legal or business policies that would entrench it as a monopoly. People may choose to use it for a long period of time and to the exclusion of other products/projects, but there are no nefarious designs in the code to make it so.
Hence, Linux may fade away. At some point, we should certainly hope so, in order to make way for the next phase of operating system, one that is preferably open source.
Other interesting tidbits from the interview are Linus' comment on patents:
...[P]atents are very much used to stop competition, which is undeniably the most powerful way to encourage innovation. Anybody who argues for patents is basically arguing against open markets and competition...
And on working for Microsoft:
I find it unlikely that MS would ever offer anything that I would consider relevant. Money? Hey, they have it, and I like it, but I obviously don't value it over everything else. And they are unlikely to offer the things I really value.
A level-headed, mature commentary on the future of Linux, the value of patents, and the likelihood of Torvalds going to Microsoft. No wonder we love this guy.