Upcoming PS3 3.21 firmware update removes Other OS functionality, adds nothing
By Tim Hanlon
March 28, 2010
I'm still rocking a launch-era PS3, and it's always felt like an investment rather than a money sink. Since launch, Sony has added DivX/Xvid playback, improved PSP Remote Play functionality, the affordable PlayTV PVR, and in Australia, support for the ABC's catch-up TV service called iView. So it pains me to report on the upcoming firmware update, which removes the Other OS feature from the non-Slim PS3s which were available until Q4 2009 - adding nothing in return.
So why did Sony choose to take away functionality? The official PlayStation.blog cites "security concerns", which makes it pretty clear what they're talking about.
George Hotz is a name that should strike fear into the hearts of anyone designing security features for consumer electronics devices. At just 17 years old, Hotz was playing a role in the iPhone Dev Team, the group of hackers who unlocked the original iPhone. In July 2009, he had long since gone solo, and was the first to publicly release a jailbreak for the iPhone 3GS.
On December 26, 2009, Hotz announced his next target - the PlayStation 3. With the Xbox 360 and Wii both having fallen to hackers, and Hotz citing the PS3 as "a prime example of how security should be done", he set out on a "real" challenge.
Just a month later, Hotz released his PS3 exploit. No prizes for those of you who've already figured out that this exploit relies on the Other OS functionality that Sony is about to remove from all PS3s.
So, why don't the people who need Other OS just decline the firmware update? Because that will lock them out of the PlayStation Network, and you can bet any PS3 games released from April onwards will require the 3.21 firmware to boot.
This is seriously poor form from Sony.
While I had no immediate plans to use the Other OS functionality of my PS3, I'm still strongly against the concept of Sony removing functionality from something I own, rather than fixing the exploit itself.
The Xbox 360 lasted less than six months after launch before being opened up to piracy in March 2006. That didn't stop Microsoft from achieving an impressive software attach rate of 8.1 games per console by December 2008. Nintendo's Wii console and DS handheld are both plagued by piracy, yet they pushed Nintendo to the position of Japan's third-most valuable company by Q4 2007.
This leaves me with little sympathy for Sony, who had an incredible three years of an exploit-free platform, and now removes functionality from the old PS3 to prolong it - even though every PS3 they've sold since Q4 2009 is immune to the exploit, and just a tiny fraction of PS3 owners are able to (or could be bothered to) download and archive disc images of over 10GB in order to save themselves $60 at retail.
Do you use the Other OS functionality of your PS3? Are you angry or indifferent about Sony's upcoming removal of the Other OS functionality? Let us know in the comments.