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Sony Kicks Linux Out of the PS3 Club

Sony Kicks Linux Out of the PS3 Club

Linux fans who want to keep their favorite OS on their PlayStation 3 will be able to do so -- but only if they're willing to leave their console "frozen in time," noted Parks Associates analyst Pietro Macchiarella. Linux users are a small percentage of the installed base using the PS3, but "it's a very loyal percentage," he said. Many of them probably chose the PS3 for its Linux compatibility.

By Katherine Noyes
03/30/10 5:00 AM PT

In what will surely be a blow to Linux fans the world over, Sony is dropping support for the open operating system on its PlayStation 3.

The move will take effect Thursday with the release of a firmware update to version 3.21. That new version will disable the "Install Other OS" feature that was available on older PS3 systems -- those released prior to the current slimmer models that launched last September.

"Due to security concerns, Sony Computer Entertainment will remove the functionality through the 3.21 system software update," wrote Patrick Seybold, the company's senior director for corporate communications and social media, on the PlayStation blog.

"In addition, disabling the 'Other OS' feature will help ensure that PS3 owners will continue to have access to the broad range of gaming and entertainment content from SCE and its content partners on a more secure system," Seybold added.

An Optional Update

Sony does not plan to require that PlayStation 3 users upgrade to the new software. Those who choose not to, however, will miss out on several key features.

The ability to sign in to PlayStation Network and use associated network features, such as online features of PS3 games and chat, is one that will depend on participating in the firmware upgrade, Seybold wrote.

Users will also need to update their software if they want to play back PS3 software titles or Blu-ray videos that require the new version. Similarly, the update will be required to play back copyright-protected videos that are stored on a media server, Seybold said.

PS3 users who are currently using the "Other OS" feature and choose to participate in the upgrade will need to back up any data stored within the hard-drive partition used by that operating system, or it will be lost during the update.

'Frozen in Time'

Most users will likely go ahead and do the upgrade, Pietro Macchiarella, research analyst with Parks Associates, told LinuxInsider.

"The problem is, if you don't do it, your console is kind of frozen in time," Macchiarella explained. That's particularly true for anyone who uses the PS3 for gaming, he added, since they'd otherwise lose out on the new generation of games.

As for Sony's rationale, the company got scared by a hack of the PlayStation 3 earlier this year using the "Other OS" feature, Macchiarella said. "They essentially want to try to stop piracy before it starts."

Sony likely hopes to have the PlayStation 3 around for at least another four or five years, he added, and any successful piracy would shorten that life span.

'A Very Loyal Percentage'

Linux users are a small percentage of the installed base using the PS3, but "it's a very loyal percentage," Macchiarella noted.

It's likely, in fact, that many of those users chose the PlayStation 3 specifically for its Linux compatibility, he added.

"This will make some people mad," Macchiarella concluded.

Indeed, if recent comments on the original "Other OS" hack post are anything to go by, "mad" might be an understatement.

'You Poured Gasoline on Sony'

"Thanks a lot," wrote one angry reader, for example. "You ignited the ps3 scene alright. You poured gasoline on Sony and set it ablaze. You didn't think of the consequences of your actions.

"Now all of us are getting screwed," the reader added. "We're Losing out OtherOS Feature because of YOU!!!"

Certainly, "taking something away is never a good thing," Ted Pollak, senior analyst for the gaming industry with Jon Peddie Research, told LinuxInsider.

On the flip side, "will this play into the success potential of the PS3?" Pollak asked. "I'd say no."


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