Not too long ago, I had a big grumble about how modern consoles essentially weren’t owned by the purchasers – since the manufacturer could limit or change the capabilities of the devices more or less at will, alter the effective market value of the device in their sole discretion and so on. It was clear that ownership of the console continued to vest in the manufacturer, by the various legal tests for property.
The Playstation 3 was originally a much more open platform, allowing you the possibility of actually running your own software on it, but then Sony took that away, and asserted the rights of ownership when anyone attempted to open it back up.
Well, the Playstation 3 is now owned by users. Pretty much permanently.
Eurogamer has all of the technical details, but the way it works is this…
The console has a number of security encryption keys. Only software and firmware properly authenticated with these keys is allowed to run on the console (previously – in the console’s more open era – you could install other software in a sort of managed sandbox, where authorised software provided a constrained runtime environment for your own software.
That has all changed. In the wake of access to the console being closed up, a small group of people have used a trivial flaw in the way software was authorised and recovered the master keys (up until now, held only by Sony).
Respect for the authority of those keys is burned into the indelible hardware of the Playstation 3. Whoever has the keys is its master, able to do anything with the console that the hardware can perform.
Sony can’t do anything at all about this, without turning every console already sold into a non-functional brick, disabling every game ever sold for the console and issuing all-new hardware and games. Sure, they can push firmware updates to consoles, but anyone else with the keys can override Sony’s firmware updates – the hardware cannot distinguish between the two.
I think it is reasonable to say that Sony won’t recall and reissue every console and game.
The Playstation 3, therefore, is now yours. The keys are out there, and alternative firmware and software is being created even now.
Suddenly, I’m thinking that the Playstation 3 now represents really good value. I bet XBMC would run really well on it with a bit of work. Once third-party software and firmware starts to come out, there may never be a better reason to buy a PS3.