Linux pioneer Linus Torvalds is a stand-up guy—he says what he feels. There’s no sugarcoating, and he’ll admit to faults, like recent issues with the Linux 4.8 kernel.
He was full of surprises at last week’s Linaro Connect conference, when he was asked about his favorite chip architecture. He didn’t blink before saying it was x86, not ARM.
It may have been the long history of x86 with PCs that influenced his answer. There’s little fragmentation of software and hardware with x86, and things just work.
People are too fixated with the instruction set and the CPU core, Torvalds said, but it ultimately is the ecosystem around the architecture that matters more.
“What matters is all the infrastructure around the instruction set, and x86 has all that infrastructure... at a lot of different levels,” Torvalds said. “It’s opening a way that no other architecture is.”
A lot of application development happens on PCs with x86 chips from Intel or AMD. Compatibility matters for x86 chips and PCs, which have a unified model around hardware, development, and other infrastructure.
The same can’t be said about ARM. From hardware vendor perspective, that leads to a fragmented market, Torvalds said.
“Being compatible just wasn’t as big of a deal for the ARM ecosystem as it has been traditionally for the x86 ecosystem,” Torvalds said during a fireside chat with ARM developers listening on.