Trust in Sony: Gone With the Other OS

It was clear from the start that Linux fans wouldn’t look kindly on Sony’s decision to drop Linux support from the PlayStation 3, and early reactions in the blogosphere didn’t disappoint.

In case there was any doubt as to the strength of those sentiments, however, the lawsuit filed last week by an irate PS3 user in California has made the situation patently clear.

“Plaintiff chose to purchase a PS3, as opposed to an Xbox or a Wii, because it offered the Other OS feature … despite the fact that the PS3 was substantially more expensive than other gaming consoles,” the filings charge. Since the April 1 firmware update, however, the PS3 “is an inferior product.”

Sony, meanwhile, has reportedly refused to support any PS3 refunds of the kind granted earlier this month to a European user.

The result? Many, many, many dark thoughts indeed.

‘Class Action Those Motherf***ers’

“You should file a complaint at your own national consumer agency,” advised sopssa among the 500-plus comments on Slashdot, for example. “I filed a complaint to the consumer agency. They contacted the seller, who then again contacted me and asked me to return the PS3 and they would give me a full refund.”

On the other hand: “National consumer agency? Oh please,” countered strack. “That’s a toothless organisation for distracting idiots from taking proper legal action.”

Instead, “class action those motherf***ers into honesty,” strack urged.

‘Incredibly Arrogant’

The topic quickly spread like wildfire across the blogosphere, leaving a smoking trail in its wake. Linux Girl donned her best flame-retardant Tux cape and took to the streets for more.

“Sony really needs a beat down for this,” Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told Linux Girl. “It is incredibly arrogant to remove features they actively advertised just because they decide it doesn’t suit Sony’s needs anymore.

“Whatever happened to putting the customer first?” Mack added. “This just adds one more reason to never buy anything from Sony.”

‘Another Ding for Sony’

Similarly: “Yeah, not real surprised by anything Sony does,” Slashdot blogger yagu began. “I don’t care much about PS3, but I care about corporate ‘behavior,’ and Sony’s has been such that I’ve not purchased a Sony product since 1998-ish. Twelve years later they continue to be, IMHO, the 2-ton gorilla of the electronics industry, switching it up however they please.”

Removing the Other OS was a “removal of trust, were there any left to remove,” yagu added. “Sony will probably beg the legal technicality — it IS buried in the EULA — but even if that were a tenable legal claim — there are some precedents to suggest it may not be — it’s bad PR all around.

“Another ding for Sony,” yagu concluded.

‘This Is Roughly the 10th Time’

Slashdot blogger caturday put it particularly well, Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza told Linux Girl.

“Honestly, this is roughly the 10th time Sony has pulled this kind of bullshit,” caturday wrote. “We’re waaaaayyyy beyond ‘fool me twice.'”

But “will Sony hang?” Espinoza wondered. “I think the odds are against it.”

Of course, “if Sony wants to waste their time preventing software from running on their devices, that is their business,” blogger Robert Pogson opined. “It lowers the value of the device. Just as with Sony’s DRM fiasco, they seem to want to shoot themselves in the foot.

“Find another supplier and attach a joystick or two,” Pogson advised.

‘Should’ve Seen This Coming’

“I’m not sure how I feel about this,” Slashdot blogger David Masover told LinuxInsider. “Sony has the right to add additional constraints to the sale of an item, just like any other contract. There’s nothing stopping them from changing it from a sale to a mere contract, where Sony would continue to legally own the PS3.”

Then, of course, “it’s up to the users to decide whether it’s worth buying a device which they don’t really own — I find it hard to feel sorry for anyone with an iPhone who complains about not being able to use Flash or tethering,” Masover explained.

On the other hand, “Sony is pretending it’s a sale,” he added. “In fact, they marketed the PS3 as a specialized PC, as your own personal supercomputer, and they capitalized on the Other OS feature as a selling point.”

Such a tactic is reminiscent of ISPs “who sell ‘unlimited’ bandwidth and then employ bandwidth caps, throttling, even overage charges for ‘bandwidth hogs,'” he pointed out.

Ultimately, “it was inexcusable of Sony, but then, anyone who was using the ‘other OS’ feature should’ve seen this coming,” Masover concluded. “In general, the only real way this will be solved is if users stop trading control over their hardware — what the FSF calls ‘freedom’ — for price and convenience. I’m not sure that will ever happen.”

‘Never Underestimate PO’d Retailers’

Indeed, “is anyone surprised?” Slashdot blogger hairyfeet wondered. “I figured if they didn’t get hit with a class action that the EU would get them.”

It seems to be “a pretty blatant case of false advertising,” hairyfeet opined. “They hyped having Feature A in marketing, many bought their product over the X360 because of the way they hyped it, then they gave the customer an ultimatum: Either give up a feature you already paid for, or lose the ability to play any new games.”

Even if Sony does “get away in the U.S., expect the EU with their tougher laws to get them,” hairyfeet predicted.

And if retailers in the EU get “left on the hook by Sony for a bunch of returned units, I can see them giving MSFT preference in the future,” he added. “Never underestimate the desire for PO’d retailers to retaliate. If Sony burns them they WILL get even, of that you can be sure.”

‘It’s About Doing Right’

So did Sony break a contract, real or implied?

“That’s for the courts to decide,” opined Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site. “But this is one of those lawsuits that would probably benefit from applying the rule, ‘de minimis non curat lex’: the law does not concern itself with trifles…”

Still, “considering how much of a premium the original PS3 adopters paid, it’s rather shabby of Sony — and that is the real issue, biting the most loyal of hands that fed you when everyone else screamed ‘overpriced,'” Hudson added. “It’s not about Linux — it’s about doing right by your customers.”

Linux Girl couldn’t have said it better herself. Surely, Sony, there are other ways you could enhance security instead…?

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