Ken Kutaragi uttered some words in a recent interview translated over at Gamespot that went a long way towards quickening the pulse of this PlayStation/Linux geek:
Impress PC Watch: The PlayStation 3 has some extremely high specifications, but it doesn’t come with an HDD. Why?
Ken Kutaragi: We’re not going to equip [the PS3 with] an HDD by default, because no matter how much [capacity] we put in it, it won’t be enough. The next step is definitely network drives. With the Cell server, they can be accessed from anywhere, via network. Whether it’s your own house [or] your friend’s house, you can access the [network hard drive] anywhere. That’s the kind of world we’re imagining. But there are still some issues if the machine doesn’t come with an HDD. So this time, we’ve added a 2.5-inch HDD bay so that users can equip HDDs, such as 80GB and 120GB, even though that’s still not enough [capacity]. Although a network drive would allow for terabytes of storage, there’s still the necessity to run an operating system offline. A hard drive for running an OS will be required for [the PS3] to be recognized as a computer.
IPCW: Do you mean to say that you’ll run an OS on the PS3 to use it as a computer?
KK: I believe it’s wrong that, while we’ve been calling PlayStations “computers,” Nintendo, which is in our same business, keeps telling the world their consoles are “toys.” So even though we’re making something that has the capability to be recognized as a supercomputer and requires paperwork when exporting or importing, the government sees it as a “toy.” The PlayStation 2 has something as great as the Emotion Engine, and it can even run Linux, but it’s still considered a gaming machine. I thought that the situation would become better since Microsoft appeared [in the gaming industry] from the IT field. But they won’t say it either, since they want to protect their business. They see problems if the Xbox could run Windows, so they keep calling the Xbox a “game machine.” It is really a pain in the neck. This time, we’re positioning the PS3 as a “supercomputer.” But people won’t recognize it as a computer unless we call it a computer, so we’re going to run an OS on it. In fact, the Cell can run multiple OSes. In order to run the OSes, we need an HDD. So in order to declare that the PS3 is a computer, I think we’ll have [the PS3’s HDD] preinstalled with Linux as a bonus.
IPCW: So Linux can be run on the Cell?
KK: Linux is legacy, but it will be a start. In the case of the Cell, operation systems are applications. The kernel will be running on the Cell, and multiple OSes will be running on top of that as applications. Of course, the PS3 can run Linux. If Linux can run, so can Lindows. Other PC Operating Systems can run too, such as Windows and Tiger (Max OS X 10.4), if the publishers want [them] to do so. Maybe a new OS might come out.
Eeeenteresting. Sony’s going to be shipping the HDD add-on to the PS3 with Linux preinstalled, which of course I’m in favor of, but the fact that Kutaragi-san is basically taking an OS-agnostic position is even more interesting to me.
Let’s look at the facts here: Sony is trying to take over your living room and the PS3 is the coup de grace in this respect. Theoretically, you’ll be able to run just about any application under the sun, including browsing the web, corresponding via email, aggregating your digitally-stored media and playing it back over your stereo system and even do some word processing, if that’s your thing. With its abundance of SD media slots, USB and Firewire ports and an optical drive capable of reading just about every disc format out there, Sony will give their customers the ability to make the PS3 the centerpiece of not just their gaming experience, but also their entire media and potentially networked experience. They’ll be offering people the ability to bring the PC out of the office and into the living room in a way that’s never been successfully tried before.
The PS2 has a worldwide installed base of somewhere in the neighborhood of 85 million units. If the PS3 can touch even half of that number, Sony would have placed themselves amongst the largest suppliers of PCs in the world, all under the guise of a “gaming supercomputer”.
I’ve got to mull this over further, particularly in light of the recent Apple/Intel announcement. More later.
(Requisite Slashdot story here.)