Sony locks down the PS3 – removes Other OS support from all models

Sony is removing the ability to install an alternative operating system such as Linux on the Playstation 3. In a blog post, Sony’s Charlotte Panther says:

PS3 Firmware 3.21 will be available this Thursday. It will disable the “Install Other OS” feature that was available on the PS3 systems prior to the current slimmer models, launched in September 2009. This feature enabled users to install an operating system, but due to security concerns, we’re now removing this feature.

Panther suggests not upgrading the firmware as a workaround, but observes that this will block access to the PlayStation Network.

It is a move that will matter little to most PS3 owners, but a great deal to the few who were doing interesting work with the cell processor that runs Sony’s games console.

The wider picture is that we are seeing a rise in locked-down devices across the industry. Games consoles are generally like this – the Xbox 360 is the same – as are most mobile phones. Apple is now extending the iPhone model, where users have limited access to the device, to the larger iPad. As I understand it, Google intends that ChromeOS devices will also be locked down, though it is too early to say whether installing alternative operating systems on these will be possible. Sony mentions security, and certainly having a protected operating system that can only be updated by the vendor is an excellent security feature.

The downside is that it gives greater power to the vendor, to control what you can do with the device, stifle creativity, and potentially to charge more for applications and extensions than is possible with an open system.

There is a good explanation of how this works in Daniel Lyons’ recent piece on the Apple iPad.

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2 comments to Sony locks down the PS3 – removes Other OS support from all models

  • Miguel de Icaza

    The upgrade is also forced for certain new games. Typically games use new OS features and bundle or require a new OS release upon first run.

    This means that as long as you are happy with the existing game lineup and are not planning on ever using a new game, you can keep the Linux option.

    The Linux option is what developers creating the GCC compilers for the SPU and the LLVM support for the SPU processors used. It is also what was used to create the SPU JIT compiler and it was also one of the few remaining and affordable PowerPC platforms that a developer could use.

  • Removing this feat on PS3 units are quite disappointing on many users. However, if this is the only solution for a better security system then I guess we cant do anything about it then. I hope PS3 developers would continue strengthening their security since I have heard that the last known bug for PS3 (prior to slim models) unable to play games are due to weak security system.