Is Linux going to sink the PS3?

1 min read

The original rumour was that Sony allowed the PS3 to have linux installed on it to get around custom laws in Europe. You see it’s now a PC and not subjected to tax.

It all seemed like a clever idea at the time but could this actually end up costing Sony more than they originally expected?

A German company called Helios thinks so. It just released a customized PS3 version of Linux that is powerful enough to run the Helios UB enterprise server, formerly reserved for the likes of the IBM Blade Server and Xserve. It achieved this feat using a stripped-down version of Yellow Dog Linux that provides extremely low overhead while still offering things like Java 1.5 and enhanced AppleTalk. (Source)

So you can now pick up an enterprise server for cheap which is great news for small enterprises (is there even such a thing?) but not good news for Sony.

Remember  Sony are making quite a considerable loss on every console sold which is perfectly normal as these companies make their money back from the sales of games. But if the PS3 is being used as a server I somehow don’t expect the companies to be purchasing that many games.

Not only that but this is really going to confuse the software publishers. Imagine Sony stating that they have sold 10 million consoles but they are unable to say how many are enterprise servers and how many are owned by gamers. This could send their official attachment rate down the toilet.

They have saved on taxes (hopefully) but linux could end up costing them a lot more in the end

Last Updated: May 31, 2007

Gavin Mannion

I for one welcome our future robotic overlords

  • There’s another catch. If Sony wants to maintain its Linux support, it will have to open up more of the hardware. That in turn could bolster piracy. If I recall correctly, the first PS3 image dumps were done through Linux. Linux was also the OS responsible for the eventually-legal cracking of DVD. Basically it’s not an environment Sony will have any real control over. ‘Homebrew’ is a deal with the devil, but such deals can be lucrative as well.

    I doubt royalties will be too much of an issue. If Sony makes any real gains from selling PS3s as servers, then its games business would be in trouble anyway, since it should be making a lot more money selling consoles to the leisure market and view server sales as a pure bonus.

  • ad

    this is so silly.. how many linux ps3 servers do you are going to be sold?? silly beyond belief. anyway, in this current environment, sony would be more than pleased to show hard numbers of ps3 selling regardless of the games attachment rate. incredibly silly. i amshocked at how silly this article is.

  • R.T.

    we want killzone2 now

  • les

    Think this issue will not be too big. In the first year or two they’ll sell PS3’s at a loss, but after that the hardware will turn profitable.

  • JD

    Yeah just look at the raft of XBOX 1 Linux servers that have infiltrated server rooms the world over. Come on, if I have to budget for hardware purchases the last thing bean counters want to see or will accept is a PS3 for the Physics department.

  • Monkeynator

    Someone needs to read up a bit more on what Helios was after. They did not intend the PS3 to be a serious server, but to be usable as a demo unit. The PS3 doesn’t have enough memory regardless of what they do to the OS, and the form factor is not conducive to stacking or using in a rack. I bet it also isn’t certifiable with regard to power, heat etc…

    If Helios has changed their stance on this then good luck to them, they will need it.

  • GL

    This is silly article. The PS3 was not meant to be a server. But it can run linux. You are acting like the the PS3 was depending on Linux. Please…

  • LazySAGamer

    GL: I was actually saying they used Linux to get around custom laws and now it may cost them more than they thought.

    Monkeynator: Good point on the memory

    JD: The xbox 1 was never meant to run Linux it had to be modded to do that

    les: True, but they make more money on games

    RT: yup 🙂

    ad: How many times did you manage to get silly in 1 post, anyway as James has nicely pointed out even if they don’t use Linux as an enterprise server system linux could still sink the PS3 due to piracy…

    James: Thanks for the only nice comment 🙂

  • doobiwan

    I think it’s a fair article, when taken in context. The PS3 is never going to be considered for enterprise computing, but where this sort of application will be very popular, will be at universities and other facilities where huge computational capabilities are required, but there’s a limited budget.

    Looking at the Folding numbers, the cell is ideal for cluster computing, and there’s proof, because there are ready “PS3 clusters” running in some American universities. Even @ $600 compared to the price of a pure cell blade to a PS3 – the blades about 3x the price.

    The main issue, and why it’s not a “silly” article is that as long as Sony keeps touting the “other” abilities of the PS3 and at the same times IS NOT SELLING ANY GAMES. The Games publishers are going to shy away from it. Proofs in the puddings gents. the 360 sold 3x as many games as the PS3 in Japan this last week, let’s not even think of the Wii or DS . . .

  • Dan

    “Linux was also the OS responsible for the eventually-legal cracking of DVD”

    No it was the motivation. The cracking did not require Linux.

    “the last thing bean counters want to see or will accept is a PS3 for the Physics department”

    Yet that is exactly the sort of application for which PS3 clusters are probably ideal.

    Does Linux on the PS3 require booting a signed disc as with the PS2 linux or can we run any linux built for the processors?

  • doobiwan

    I believe it’s any PowerPC based distro, but yellow dog seems to be the one with a pre-built ISO. It’s doesn’t require a bot disc, it’ll boot of the hard drive apparently.

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