Most people know one of the ‘advantages’ of the PS3 is that you’ve always been able to install an alternative operating system, but with the advent of the new slimmer PS3 we found out that the OtherOS option has been removed by Sony. The official line at the time was “The new PS3 system will focus on delivering games and other entertainment content, and users will not be able to install other Operating Systems to the new PS3 system.” whilst that obviously makes sense there is some new information which has since been removed that may tell the whole story.
But first a little bit of a history lesson, the ability to install another operating system (OS) first came to the world of PlayStation back in 2002 when a Linux kit for the PS2 was released, through the kit, users were able to turn their PS2 in to a personal computer. With the advent of the PS3, Sony enabled the option to install an alternative OS right from launch with the settings menu featuring the option to install ‘Other OS’ and with the use of handy guides like the one featured here on TSA, it was possible to get your PS3 running with a fully fledged operating system. Unfortunately as a personal computer it was limited by Sony’s Hypervisor which didn’t allow the OtherOS to access the GPU severely hindering 3D performance meaning it was impractical as a gaming platform (for obvious reasons) but was also sluggish as a basic PC.
Anyway, back to perhaps the whole story as to why the OtherOS option has been removed from the new slimmer PS3, The Register is reporting on a post over in the official PlayStation 2 Linux Community forums which stated:
The reasons are simple: The PS3 Slim is a major cost reduction involving many changes to hardware components in the PS3 design. In order to offer the OtherOS install, SCE would need to continue to maintain the OtherOS hypervisor drivers for any significant hardware changes – this costs SCE. One of our key objectives with the new model is to pass on cost savings to the consumer with a lower retail price. Unfortunately in this case the cost of OtherOS install did not fit with the wider objective to offer a lower cost PS3.
The message has apparently since been deleted:
Message Not Found
This message does not (any longer) exist.
This explanation that the time, effort and associated costs needed to maintain the Hypervisor is again perfectly reasonable but it is also being suggested that Sony were secretly annoyed at the use of PS3’s by private company’s, research groups and even individuals stock piling PS3s in racks to provide releatively cheap processing power. Remember Sony sell the PS3 at a loss, and profit is only generated for the group through sales of games.
So it looks like the real cost savings for Sony in removing the OtherOS option is not only in maintaining the Hypervisor but in cutting out a number of sales which do nothing for Sony’s bottom line, and this has to be a good thing all round. For those that must accumulate racks of PS3’s the good news is that the forthcoming FW3.0 will not be patching out the OtherOS feature from the existing models.