PS3 To Drop Other Operating Systems

Users will put Linux, or try to, on anything: toasters, toilets, even dead badgers. One popular non-PC locale for Linux deployment is on video game consoles, like Sony's PlayStation 3 — which will become a much less popular place later this week, when Sony is scheduled to slam the door.

The ability to install other operating systems has been a feature of the PS3 since it was originally launched in 2006, and a number of distributions — both free and paid — include PS3 support. Linux compatibility was a selling point for the console's previous generation, and the PS3's owner's manual specifically mentions that Linux use was deliberately included:

[I]t was fully intended that you, a PS3 owner, could play games, watch movies, view photos, listen to music, and run a full-featured Linux operating system that transforms your PS3 into a home computer.

Those intentions have apparently changed, as the company unceremoniously revealed that third-party operating systems will soon be shut out. In a post to the company's PlayStation Blog on Sunday, Corporate Communications director Patrick Seybold announced that a mandatory firmware update will be pushed out to all users on April 1 — appropriately enough — and will sever support for alternate operating systems. Seybold cited "security concerns" as the motive, saying:

This feature enabled users to install an operating system, but due to security concerns, Sony Computer Entertainment will remove the functionality through the 3.21 system software update.

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.

Users have the option to forgo the update, but will suffer sizable cuts in feature availability if they do. In addition to forfeiting improvements introduced by the update (3.21) as well any future updates, users will no longer be able to play access the company's PlayStation Network, severing their ability to use online features of their games. In addition, forthcoming titles may require the 3.21 firmware, rendering games and even Blue-ray movies unusable on the system. Seybold's post also indicates that the ability to play copyright-protected videos from a media server will be lost.

The move is an interesting one, considering some of the ways the PS3 is being used. Beyond playing games and hi-def movies, the PS3 has been appropriated for use in high-performance computing. The United States military has been clustering the systems for some time for supercomputing use, and as of late-November, was planning to more than sextuple its use of the device. Seybold did not address whether the company considered the system's use for non-entertainment purposes in deciding to eliminate the feature.

Displeased users — and we suspect there will be plenty, including some wearing stars, bars, birds, and clusters — can contact Sony via the company's support contact form or by calling Customer Service at 1-800-345-SONY. Operators are standing by — and likely very busy.

Image courtesy of William Hook.

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