Sony Pushes (Another) Mandatory PS3 Update

Last month, an Australian judge granted Sony complete control over an inventory of PS3 jailbreak devices, but winning its court case apparently wasn't enough for the console giant. On Monday, September 6, Sony's Director of Hardware Marketing, John Koller, announced: "A minor update to your PS3 system is now available via system software update v3.42 that includes additional security features." In this case, "additional security features" translates directly into "plugging the latest firmware hole end-users are exploring."

Maybe it's time to throw in the towel and admit we don't really get Sony. Oh, it's easy to understand why the company is afraid of jailbroken PS3s—the company has an enormous interest in protecting the PS3's revenue stream—but the ways in which the company attempts to safeguard the PS3 sometimes boggles the mind. This might not seem so much an issue, but the PS3 already starts off with two strikes against it. Unlike the Wii or XBox 360, the PS3 has actually <i>lost</i> features (two USB 2.0 ports, Other OS support, the integrated flash card reader, and SACD support). We won't even mention Sixaxis, or the company's complete flip-flop on the importance of rumble as a feature.

The PSPGo got up and went.

Sony's download-only PSP Go is all but dead, UMD as a method of movie distribution is dead, and Blu-ray, while lumbering upwards, has yet to set consumers on fire for fresh hardware. You'd think Sony might've learned by now that expensive, proprietary standards don't win mass market acceptance—Betamax, Digital Audio Tape, Minidisc, ATRAC, MemoryStick, MemoryStick Micro, and UMD for films all failed—but the company continues to pursue strategies that maximize control, even if it means shafting a prominent community of supercomputer experts the company loudly courted just two years ago.

Obviously this is not the sort of issue that'll ever sink the PS3, but it's extremely unlikely that any homebrew enthusiast or Other OS fan will trust Sony when it comes time to market the PS4, regardless of what the company promises about its long-term commitment to such features or to more pertinent items, like PS3 backwards compatibility. This is all the
more surprising given how badly the Playstation 3 struggled at launch; you might think Sony would remember the various (admittedly fringe) groups that expressed interest in the unit's capabilities.

This firmware will, of course, be broken. Sony will promptly update it, and we'll probably be doing this dance from here until the console ceases production. We can't help wondering if Sony's ironclad determination to prevent all 'unauthorized' use of the PS3 will open a window Microsoft takes advantage of when it designs the next XBox. That company's attitude towards legitimacy has evolved considerably over the last decade; the Windows Genuine Advantage program began life as a piece of software that would lock you out of your own system and has evolved into a program that simply nags you incessantly to update. The next-generation XBox, whenever it arrives, may well cater to the desires of homebrew enthusiasts while simultaneously striking a balance between users' rights and security that isn't so draconian.