Morton Gets Googled
Aug 03, 2006, 18:00 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)
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By Brian Proffitt
Andrew Morton has started working for a new company, but his day
job as the Linux 2.6 kernel maintainer will remain exactly the
The new company is none other than Google, the Mountain View,
CA-based company that has favored Linux in its operations and
lately in its software development plans. Morton started his
employment on Monday, shifting into a new environment to do pretty
much the same work he has been doing.
The reason for this odd statement is explained by who was
funding Morton's employment to begin with. Morton was named a
full-time Open Source Development Labs Fellow in July 2003, and it
is a common misperception that he was directly employed the OSDL.
In actuality, Morton was employed by Palo Alto-based Digeo
"My position there was funded by OSDL so that I could work on
the kernel full-time," Morton said in an interview with Linux
Until recently, the arrangement worked very well for the
developer, who is oft-times referred to as Linus Torvalds'
right-hand man. But recently, changes began to take place.
"There were reorganizations at Digeo which would have changed my
work situation in ways which were not attractive, and it was time
to move on," Morton explained.
The OSDL offered to directly employ Morton while he worked from
home, but Morton indicated that he preferred to work in an office
with other engineers. Thus a search for a new home was
So why Google? Other than the well-known perks for working in
Google's Silicon Valley campus, Morton had a strong ethical
attraction to working for the company.
"In my position as kernel maintainer I feel that I should not be
employed by a company which has a direct interest in the kernel.org
kernel because this would put me in a position of making decisions
which are commercially significant to my employer's competitors,"
Morton explained. "As Google maintains their own kernel variant for
internal use, their interests are largely decoupled from what
happens in the kernel.org kernel."
Google's active use of Linux and participation in open source
development was another big draw. "It is beneficial to me (and to
Linux) that I be in day-to-day contact with people who use Linux
for real things. Hence Google is a good all-round fit," Morton
Other than new digs and new co-workers, Morton's relationship
with OSDL remains unchanged. He values the industry contacts the he
has gained working with OSDL, and has no desire to part with that
Of more importance to the Linux community is his status as the
2.6 maintainer. The good news for them is, the status will not
change a whit.
"I shall continue my maintainership role with the Linux
kernel--there should be few if any visible changes in this
function," Morton stated.
The new working relationship shouldn't be a bad thing for
Google, either. The company's efforts to make headway as a believer
and user in open source software will certainly gain some street
cred with Morton's presence.
"We are pleased to confirm that Andrew Morton has joined Google
as a member of our Linux development team. Andrew joins Google from
the OSDL and has an unparalleled background in Linux and open
source development. Andrew will continue his fine work on the Linux
kernel and with organizations like OSDL. We are thrilled to welcome
him to Google," said Google Open Source Program Manager Chris
For his part, Morton is spending the week like any other first
week on the job, meeting new people, adjusting to new e-mail, and
"I look forward to working at Google--they have become one of
the great Silicon Valley engineering companies and I expect that,
as happened with Digeo, my improved understanding of the problems
which engineers encounter when using the Linux kernel for
real-world applications will lead to a better kernel," Morton
Still, the kernel developer was unhesitant in remembering how he
got to this point in his career. "I thank Digeo for the opportunity
to work on Linux-they permitted me to work full-time on Linus's
kernel for a year prior to entering into the OSDL sponsorship
arrangement, which was a considerable contribution," he said,
adding "I thank OSDL for enabling me to work full-time on the Linux
kernel for three years and for all the other things they have done
for me and for Linux."