When Sony – without much prior notice – pulled the plug on its support of the OtherOS feature on the PS3, gamers worldwide were enraged. Common thought has it that Sony did so in view of security concerns. The real reason maybe far from it. Read on.
When Sony removed the OtherOS feature in firmware update 3.21, enthusiasts who had Linux installed on their systems – and quite unsurprisingly, the U.S. Air Force – were angry. How could Sony do such a thing? That too in spite of the fact that Sony used the feature as selling point ( or close to it ) in advertisements to consumers. Some were so enraged that they even went to the extent of suing Sony, which obviously did not happen.
Essentially, the OtherOS feature was wiped from millions of systems, because – again, unsurprisingly – in order to be able to use any of the PlayStation Network’s benefits, you need to have the latest firmware update. So gamers had no choice but to update and lose the OtherOS feature.
So, why did Sony remove the OtherOS feature? Security reasons? No. Apparently, it was because IBM was getting mildly, what can I say – pissed off. Some of you might know that astrophysicist Gaurav Khanna ( read more about that here ) uses PS3 clusters for his super-computer purposes. Why doesn’t he use IBM’s? They’re way costlier, which is why. So quintessentially, Sony – by way of its comparably cheaper supercomputers – was causing losses to IBM. In very small figures. Which IBM cared about. So point fingers at IBM is what Sony did, when asked as to why the OtherOS feature was removed.
One of the interesting reasons which SCEA gave – Sony wanted its consumers to use PS3 as a device that primarily served as an entertainment system, not ( another ) personal computer. Similarly, IBM wanted to sell its expensive CELL-utilizing servers. So, it naturally happened.
So the security reasons which were dug up from out of nowhere are false? Yes, afraid so. Because surely, Sony could’ve worked around security reasons, one way or another. Not financial, though. Practically speaking – and logically, Sony did only what seemed logical. IBM was a key partner along with Toshiba, in giving Sony ( the STI alliance ) the cheap-nearly-as-powerful-as-a-supercomputer CELL microprocessor; so Sony obviously had to comply in removing the OtherOS feature. This makes perfect sense especially if the probability of Sony working with IBM to design components for the PS4 is taken into consideration. Which seems quite high, because it is only after 5 years and countless number of games into the PS3’s life cycle that the ( hardworking and devoted ) game developers are really comprehending – and tapping – the capabilities and potential of the CELL processor.