After Sony's PS3 slim announcement last week, many fans were dismayed the new model would no longer include backwards compatibility and the option to run Linux as an alternative operating system.
Sony stated the console's ability to run PS2 games wasn't a major "purchase intent driver" and therefore not worth the cost of including, yet remained relatively silent on the missing "OtherOS" option.
A forum response on Sony's official Linux for Playstation 2 developer community sheds some new light on the feature's removal. A Sony rep explained the company is simply unwilling to bear costs of maintaining the hypervisor used for OtherOS support across major hardware revisions.
From the horse's mouth:
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.
While Sony's official line of software-related costs is reasonable from a corporate standpoint, others have speculated the company isn't pleased with the handful of private research labs, companies, and individuals using racks of PS3s as a relatively inexpensive Cell cluster node or workstation. Because Sony sells the PS3 at a loss, any customer who doesn't buy games for the console is bad for the bottom line.
That had some worried Sony intended to remove OtherOS compatibility from the original fat PS3 in a future software update. Fortunately, a report on the blog GamesILike indicates old models will keep the functionality. Another Sony rep wrote on a developer mailing list that: "SCE is committed to continue the support for previously sold models that have the 'install Other OS' feature and that this feature will not be disabled in future firmware releases."
If it's a truly a software cost issue, it seems Sony could just slap an extra fee on those who want the OtherOS option. The cost could probably be up there before it came close to the cost of buying specialized Cell hardware.
Or Sony could open the technology up to the Linux community to maintain (ha...ha ha....hahahahahaha!). Well - a fellow can dream. ®