What if Linus Torvalds Would Have Accepted Steve Jobs Offer?

Linux turned 32 years old this year, marking an eventful journey since its official release in September 1991. Its inception and immense success would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of Linus Torvalds who is popularly regarded as the Father of Linux and a crusader of open-source software, alongside a vibrant community of developers from around the world.

It all began as a personal project by Linus Torvalds, who was then a Finnish Computer Science student at the University of Helsinki. His goal was to create a free operating kernel similar to MINIX, a UNIX-like operating system.

Linus Torvalds
Linus Torvalds

He didn’t intend it to be big or gain recognition, but as fate would have it, what was once a hobby project grew spectacularly over time to become one of the most widely used operating systems in server environments and on the cloud.

Torvalds meets Steve Jobs

At around 2000, Torvalds was offered a great salary and a remarkable position at Apple by Steve Jobs. Steve insisted that he stopped working on the Linux project, something Linus Torvalds outrightly refused to do. Instead, Linus stuck to Linux and continued working with other open-source technologies.

Linus Torvalds Turns Down Steve Jobs' Apple Job Offer
Linus Torvalds Turns Down Steve Jobs’ Apple Job Offer

As a matter of fact, Linus Torvalds built Git with the collaboration of other developers in the Linux community and officially released it in 2005. The creation of Git was inspired by a lack of a free version control tool that would meet the requirements for the development of the Linux kernel.

Why did Linus Torvalds Decline the Proposal?

There are a couple of reasons why Linus Torvalds turned down Steve Job‘s offer. First, Steve Jobs didn’t care much about Linux. In an interview with Wired, he stated “He wanted me to work at Apple doing non-Linux things”. Essentially, Steve Jobs was working on replacing the Mach Kernel – the kernel MacOS was running on – with a new one.

There were two options as the base kernels- Linux and FreeBSD. Steve offered Linus Torvalds a job to work on a new kernel based on the Linux kernel, but he declined because he didn’t want to work on a closed-source system, regardless of the paycheck. This left Steve with no option but to turn to FreeBSD as the only alternative, and so he hired many programmers to work on it.

What If Torvalds Would Have Accepted the Proposal?

Linus Torvalds wanted to continue working on open-source projects that would be accessible to the community without license restrictions. The two gentlemen’s ideologies were, obviously, at loggerheads and this led them to chart different paths.

Declining the job offer to work for Apple is probably the decision that Linus could have ever made. True, it can be argued that Linux would still have carried on without him.

What’s not in doubt is that the open-source community would have lost such a talented and inspirational talent whose full potential would not have been realized. There is a high probability that we wouldn’t be where we are now without his remarkable efforts and contributions.

Linus Torvalds Today

In a keynote interview with Dirk Hohndel, the Vice President and Chief Open Source Office of VMware, Linus Torvalds explained that he’s not a programmer anymore, save for reading emails and occasionally writing code.

However, he’s actively involved in overseeing every line of code added to the Linux kernel and guiding developers accordingly. This includes approving or rejecting their code when he feels it’s not sound.

Linus is known for his outbursts, blunt feedback to engineers, and sometimes using expletives in his mailing lists. In an interview with BBC in September 2018, he acknowledged his behavioral shortcomings and explained that he’s seeking professional help to become more polite and empathetic with fellow developers.

He however asserted the fact that he’s not a people-pleaser and will continue to speak his mind and provide criticism where needed.

Lesser Known Facts about Linus Torvalds

While many are familiar with his significant contributions to the open-source world, here are some lesser-known facts about Linus Torvalds:

  • Linus, is pronounced as “Lee-nus“, not “Lie-nus“.
  • Linus is responsible for the creation of Tux, the official Linux mascot.
  • He is named after Linus Pauling, a double Nobel Peace Prize winner.
  • He grew up in a family of journalists.
  • He describes himself as an agnostic.
  • He created Git, a popular and widely used Version control system used by millions of developers.
  • In 2022, his net worth was estimated to be $50 million with an annual salary of $1.5 million.

Famous Quotes of Linus Torvalds

Here are some of Linus Torvalds‘ famous quotes:

Talk is cheap. Show me the code.

Software is like sex: it’s better when it’s free.

Bad programmers worry about the code. Good programmers worry about data structures and their relationships.

Intelligence is the ability to avoid doing work, yet getting the work done.

Most good programmers do programming not because they expect to get paid or get adulation by the public, but because it is fun to program.

I like to offend people, because I think people who get offended should be offended.

The Linux philosophy is ‘Laugh in the face of danger’. Oops. Wrong One. ‘Do it yourself’. Yes, that’s it.


The Torvalds‘ decision to continue developing Linux as an open-source project has played a pivotal role in shaping the free and open-source software movement.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back with another interesting article that I hope you’ll enjoy reading. Please share your valuable feedback in the comment section below.

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James Kiarie
This is James, a certified Linux administrator and a tech enthusiast who loves keeping in touch with emerging trends in the tech world. When I'm not running commands on the terminal, I'm taking listening to some cool music. taking a casual stroll or watching a nice movie.

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  1. I have been using Linux since long before 2000. Had Linus taken a job with Jobs in 2000, who knows the direction Linux might have taken, but it doesn’t mean Linux would have died. It is entirely possible that Linus might have given day to day control of his project to someone who also loved it and could keep it growing.

    Linus did invent Linux, and his direction and code contribution have been important to getting Linux to where it is today, but lets not forget the millions of other developers that have contributed code to the Linux kernel or that develop programs that run on Linux.

  2. I don’t understand why people feel the need to make comparisons all the time. Linus is definitely a genius and an outstanding example of generosity whose contribution has changed the world for the better.

    However, Steve Jobs too did his part in changing the world. Steve inspired a lot of people with his personality and his original drive was not money. Every human being on this planet has a specific purpose, some people touch more lives than others for a reason; it’s not up to us to judge them!

  3. Waw. The author really should have done some research into this topic, this article is so full of inaccurate statements I don’t even know where to begin…
    Linus is one of the greatest minds ever in the software world, no doubt about that.
    Jobs (in his last ‘phase’ at Apple) is one of the worst things ever for software and computers in general, so I try not to imagine what would have happened if those two had teamed up.

  4. What a great re-writing of history, by the year 2000 everyone and their puppy were into Linux….

    03rd April 2000 – Red Hat 6.2 was released
    15th August 2000 – Debian 2.2

    Linux Foundation sponsors Torvalds, so that Linux can give all his time for the development of Linux.

    Erm you forgot the superhero’s / Messiah’s name :)

    anyway depending on the date this offer was put forward, it was also the year IBM announced it was spending a few pennies on Linux.

  5. Interesting article. I hope you are not offended if I point out that correct usage is “What if Linus Torvalds HAD Accepted …”, not “would have accepted”. I’m seeing more people misuse “would have” recently. It goes ONLY in the “then” part, not the “if” part — for example, you would say, “If he had accepted, the world would have been different.”

  6. Linus is to Xgen geeks what Richie and Thomson where to the previous generation. like de Icaza ,Stallman and so many others , they made the Community of geeks , and for this my eternal Kudos

  7. Not taking anything away from Torvalds, his contribution to the world of IT will always be phenomenal, but if you want to play the “What if” game…. what would the world have been like had Jobs not visited PARC in 1969?

  8. ” We wont be having Linux” -> completely false.
    Linux has been around since 1991…

    And “so that Linux can give all his time for the development of Linux.” I think you meant “so that Linus can give all his time for the development of Linux.”

  9. Linus Torvalds is one of those truly fortunate people, who has figured out how to make a living doing what he enjoys doing.

    I admire those people, and dearly wish I could figure out how to do the same.

    It has nothing to do with fortune, or fame. Just joy.

  10. And BTW, though it was released in 1991, Linux wouldn’t have come all the way till 2014 the way it has without Linus actively handling it. At best there might have been too many forks which would make it extremely difficult to find something that’s equivalent to Linux as we know it today.

  11. Interesting article.

    “We wont be having Linux, Kindle, Android…”

    I hope you meant:

    “We wouldn’t have Linux, Kindle, Android”

  12. >>> That day if Torvalds would have accepted the proposal of Steve Jobs, today the world would not been the same.

    It isn’t true. Linus released his os in 1991, so before 2000 Linux had already became popular in small group of people. Canonical made it popular across the whole world releasing Ubuntu.

    So the world would be pretty the same just with some small differences, e.g. names of Linux kernel maintainers


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