Monday, December 12th 2011

PS3 'OtherOS' Scandal: Sony 1, Customers 0

The verdict is in: a company can flog you a product while loudly advertising a significant feature likely to sway your buying decision, then yank it away from you sometime later - and get away with it. Yay!

Sounds like a ridiculous, awful parody, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it isn't. This is what's happened with the "OtherOS" feature so unceremoniously yanked by Sony from the PlayStation 3 way back in March 2010 with a firmware update – the infamous version 3.21 - all in the name of increasing system security to prevent game "piracy". At the time the feature was advertised, many enthusiasts realized that they could use the PS3 as a cheap, but powerful computer and Linux was lovingly ported over to it. Even the US military built a "supercomputer" around a cluster of 1760 PlayStation 3's, finding them very useful for such things as researching artificial intelligence, image enhancement and pattern recognition, all things requiring intensive computer power. They can't do this any more, all because of the "fight against piracy." As machines die off, they can't be replaced with new ones. Unless those can somehow have the old firmware put on them using some unofficial workaround, of course...
Enthusiasts interested in this feature were understandably not happy at being treated in such a shoddy way. One Californian resident, Anthony Ventura, even had the guts to file a class action lawsuit against Sony over this and the case looked like a strong one. The lawsuit stated that the removal of this feature was an "intentional disablement of the valuable functionalities originally advertised as available." However, today, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg unfortunately dismissed all but one of Ventura's claims, upholding the EULA that Sony makes customers agree to when they purchase the console. In its motion to dismiss the suit, Sony wrote: "These contracts specifically provide PS3 purchasers with a license, not an ownership interest, in the software and in the use of the PSN, and provide that SCEA has the right to disable or alter software features or terminate or limit access to the PSN, including by issuing firmware updates."

Judge Seeborg's reasoning that the lawsuit should be dismissed is that Ventura is claiming rights to something which he doesn't have rights to: "All of the counts are based on plaintiffs' fundamental contention that it was wrongful for Sony to disable the Other OS feature, or, more precisely, to [force PS3 owners to decide between] permitting the Other OS feature to be disabled or forgoing their access to the PSN and any other benefits available through installing. The flaw in plaintiffs' [argument] is that they are claiming rights not only with respect to the features of the PS3 product, but also to have ongoing access to an internet service offered by Sony, the PSN."Although a little unlikely, Ventura may yet appeal this dismissal. We will publish a follow-up article if this happens.

The only part of the lawsuit that the judge "upheld", was that Venture was allowed to continue using the PS3 with the original firmware, thereby allowing "OtherOS" to be used in that configuration only. A small consolation, if any at all – how are Sony going to stop him anyway? This "option" of course, brings with it a host of problems for the now hapless user, as Escapist Magazine explains: "The plaintiffs maintain that firmware update 3.21 doesn't just forbid access to the PSN, the main functions of the console are no longer viable. To wit, if you didn't update, you could no longer play new games, play games online, play new Blu-Rays, or even play some older Blu-rays. So choosing not to update and keep the "Other OS" option alive means that no new purchases are possible and it seriously restricts the usefulness of the product." Exactly and Sony know this very well, coldly using it as leverage to force people into disabling this important feature.

However, as awful and unjust as this verdict is, it does appear that the law is apparently completely on Sony's side and therefore the judge was merely applying it. The famous phrase, "the law is an ass" appears to fit this case perfectly. In fact, judge Seeborg did actually sympathise with Ventura's situation, which is nice of him: "The dismay and frustration at least some PS3 owners likely experienced when Sony made the decision to limit access to the PSN service to those who were willing to disable the Other OS feature on their machines was no doubt genuine and understandable. As a matter of providing customer satisfaction and building loyalty, it may have been questionable. As a legal matter, however, plaintiffs have failed to allege facts or to articulate a theory on which Sony may be held liable."

So there you have it, a company can sell you a product and then a considerable time later pull a feature which is a major selling point without penalty, not even having to bother compensating the buyer for it in the smallest way. Nothing. Nada. This gives a very poor experience for the customer and leaves them wondering when the next feature will be pulled, or what other dirty tricks the company will be up to. The only thing left to do in such a situation is for everyone to vote with their wallets and boycott companies that have such nasty business ethics. This doesn’t happen often enough in practice, unfortunately.

Finally, one does wonder if the lawsuit would have been dismissed so easily if an entity with deep pockets such as the US military with its homemade supercomputer would have brought this class action...
Add your own comment

66 Comments on PS3 'OtherOS' Scandal: Sony 1, Customers 0

#1
Completely Bonkers
I understand that someone is annoyed at having something taken away. But is it a prima facie feature of PS3? No. And you can count the number of people who want to use their PS3 as a "supercomputer" on one hand. It is nearly impossible to program, doesnt have a deep library of existing routines, and is hard to network and scale. IIRC the "military" concept project of networking 1700 of these things has long been shelved.

The problem is that for the few people that have invested a lot of personal time in developing for the PS3 OtherOS, that this time has now been robbed or taken away from them. But it was a dead end anyway. Just like programming for cult retro PCs like 8bit 6502 assembler.

Since PS3 came out, we now have OpenCL and CUDA, Tesla 2090, and soon Knights Corner. These are far superior for your compute projects.
Posted on Reply
#2
w3b
This is bigger than Sony.

The thing that irritates me the most out of this whole ordeal is that now you can buy a product which could later, through modification by the manufacturer/distributor, be changed into a different product after sale.

Regardless of your views of Sony and OtherOS; that above is worthy of contemplation as other companies plot more ways to bend the rules in their favour based on this ruling.
Posted on Reply
#3
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
newtekie1 said:
Loudly advertise a significant feature likely to sway your buying decision? Hardly. They didn't loudly advertise OtherOS, in fact I don't think they even bothered to advertise it at all, at least not in any form of main stream media. In fact, they didn't even include a mention of OtherOS on the box. 99% of people buying a PS3 likely never even knew OtherOS existed, and it certainly wasn't swaying their buying decisions. I don't think anyone was torn between buying a PS3 or an Xbox360, but decided to go with the PS3 just because of OtherOS. It wasn't a significant feature, it wasn't loudly advertise(it wasn't advertised at all actually), and it didn't sway anyones buying decisions.

There obviously are a select few instances where OtherOS was the reason for buying the console, mainly using it exclusively for the Linux aspect to use the PS3 in a cluster. In which case, those users simply don't update the firmware on the PS3. In fact they probably never even boot into the PS3 interface.
Ok, I'll put my hand up and say that I've not had personal experience of their PS3 marketing, because I've never paid much attention to it. However, from what I understand, they did push the feature. Regardless, I'll bet it was listed on the box. ;)

Heck, wouldn't it be ironic if I changed my username to OtherOS in support of Ventura? :laugh: No W1zz, don't do it!
Posted on Reply
#4
scottsche
Do these editorials really need to be posted to the main news page?
Posted on Reply
#5
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
scottsche said:
Do these editorials really need to be posted to the main news page?
Yes. And I decide if it's an editorial or not, not you.
Posted on Reply
#6
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
I'm surprised the judge threw out the misleading advertising claim. Yes, Sony's agreement says they can remove services and features but to remove an adevertised service or feature is to remove a promise made in past advertising. This is disappointing.
Posted on Reply
#7
digibucc
Easy Rhino said:
i agree with that. once people wake from their zombie purchasing state then this behavior by the manufacturers/retailers will end. ...

remember, companies survive on profits which means they survive on you and me. we make the demands and sony and others follow with the supply. they create products to compete for our dollar. as a society we have been getting lazy with our money and just throw it anyone who promises us a few fun hours. pretty god d%mned pathetic if you ask me.
it's nothing new. this has been the way of the world since we began social constructs - it will not change. there are not enough people that even see the argument, and of those that see so few care - and of those that care so few are willing to do anything.

it's easy to sit back and point out the problem, but your solution isn't feasible. if your answer is for the people to band together and fight back through their purchases, to send a message: you're wrong. not saying that is not the ideal solution, just saying it is impossible and will never happen. i don't have the solution, but every time i read that you can fight back with your purchases i cringe. there are billions of consumers, you will never make a dent.

edit: i'm not advocating AGAINST smart purchasing. of course you should care what practices the companies' you buy from employ... it's personally & socially responsible, you just won't make a difference. :)
Posted on Reply
#8
Easy Rhino
Linux Advocate
digibucc said:
it's nothing new. this has been the way of the world since we began social constructs - it will not change. there are not enough people that even see the argument, and of those that see so few care - and of those that care so few are willing to do anything.

it's easy to sit back and point out the problem, but your solution isn't feasible. if your answer is for the people to band together and fight back through their purchases, to send a message: you're wrong. not saying that is not the ideal solution, just saying it is impossible and will never happen. i don't have the solution, but every time i read that you can fight back with your purchases i cringe. there are billions of consumers, you will never make a dent.
so then we have a case of a small minority of sony users who care and the rest don't care. why should sony bend to the whims of a small minority putting its business model in jeopardy. this same example can be extrapolated out to any manufacturer/consumer relationship. obviously most people don't care so the minority doesn't have legal power to stand on.
Posted on Reply
#9
digibucc
Easy Rhino said:
so then we have a case of a small minority of sony users who care and the rest don't care. why should sony bend to the whims of a small minority putting its business model in jeopardy. this same example can be extrapolated out to any manufacturer/consumer relationship. obviously most people don't care so the minority doesn't have legal power to stand on.
no disagreement here. it's cold and hard but the truth as i see it. there are things that can band together enough support, like wrongful death or health implications, racism, etc. but removing linux from PS3 is something that simply will never have enough support.
Posted on Reply
#10
Easy Rhino
Linux Advocate
digibucc said:
no disagreement here. it's cold and hard but the truth as i see it. there are things that can band together enough support, like wrongful death or health implications, racism, etc. but removing linux from PS3 is something that simply will never have enough support.
exactly, which is why sony removed otherOS. they knew they would only piss off a small sect of users. now if they removed blu-ray player ability because they found it to be a security risk then people who go insane and there would be all sorts of legal trouble.
Posted on Reply
#11
blibba
Easy Rhino said:
next time, read the EULA. stop screwing yourself over.

you people amaze me. take some personal responsibility for the purchases you make for once in your life.

if enough people read the EULA and understood what sony could possibly do then less people would buy sony and they would have to change their terms.
As the escapist points out, the extent to which Sony's actions are covered by their EULA is debatable.

More to the point, expecting people to foresee and factor into their purchase decisions outcomes like this from that EULA is more than a little unrealistic - you can't expect the man on the street, especially the young teens this console is partly aimed at, to have that kind of imagination or analytical ability.

And more to the point still, this behaviour, even if it is legal, is unethical. The law is a terrible measure of what's right and wrong.

Who are you, anyway? I've seen you a few times recently posting similar points - are you a corporate lawyer or something? I don't see how anyone (even Sony if they were honest) could really side with Sony here and say they did nothing morally wrong. And if they need to behave in such a matter to preserve their business model, maybe their business model is wrong too, and if so they should take responsibility for that rather than having some of their users pay the price. As it happens, I don't think that other OS support was seriously jeopardising their business model - at least not as much as the results of dropping it are.
Posted on Reply
#12
DonInKansas
CDdude55 said:
What would give Sony incentive to remove any major features from the PS3?, OtherOS was a very small thing and does not detract from what the system was created for.

OtherOS was a good addition, but nothing more.
Agreed. I also don't understand why so many around here are calling that a "major selling point." The majority of PS3 owners want to play games, watch movies, and maybe occasionally browse the net on their PS3. "Oh noes I can't run Linux on mah PS3!" I'm sure the 1% that care won't affect Sony's pocketbook much, and that most users never even knew OtherOS existed.

The Nancy Grace of TPU strikes again.
Posted on Reply
#13
HossHuge
Two things:
1. Cheers to Anthony Ventura for trying. I wonder if he is related to Ace?
2. I'm glad Sony is losing money year after year.
Posted on Reply
#14
Suhidu
I don't understand the title. Are you trying to say that while there is still 1 Sony, 0 Customers remain?

If so, you may be overreacting to this news.
Posted on Reply
#15
digibucc
blibba said:

The law is a terrible measure of what's right and wrong.
my new quote

blibba said:

Who are you, anyway? I've seen you a few times recently posting similar points - are you a corporate lawyer or something? I don't see how anyone (even Sony if they were honest) could really side with Sony here and say they did nothing morally wrong.
and just who are you? ;)

Rhino is definitely not siding with Sony, he is just pointing out the side of the argument that most whining tweens miss, and is a very important side to recognize. don't take his explanations of their actions as justification or acceptance.

Suhidu said:
I don't understand the title.
the title is simple. i don't understand the joke?
Posted on Reply
#16
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
qubit said:
Ok, I'll put my hand up and say that I've not had personal experience of their PS3 marketing, because I've never paid much attention to it. However, from what I understand, they did push the feature. Regardless, I'll bet it was listed on the box. ;)

Heck, wouldn't it be ironic if I changed my username to OtherOS in support of Ventura? :laugh: No W1zz, don't do it!
No, they really didn't push the feature at all. It wasn't mentioned in any of their mainstream media marketting. Not in TV/Audio ads and not in print ads.

And no, it isn't listed anywhere on the box. I'll have to check for sure, but I'm pretty sure it isn't even mentioned in the manual for the PS3.

FordGT90Concept said:
I'm surprised the judge threw out the misleading advertising claim. Yes, Sony's agreement says they can remove services and features but to remove an adevertised service or feature is to remove a promise made in past advertising. This is disappointing.
That is the issue, sony never really advertised it. It was a feature the console had, and people talked about it, but Sony themselves never advertised it. It isn't really misleading advertising if none of your advertising talks about OtherOS.
Posted on Reply
#17
AphexDreamer
newtekie1 said:
No, they really didn't push the feature at all. It wasn't mentioned in any of their mainstream media marketting. Not in TV/Audio ads and not in print ads.

And no, it isn't listed anywhere on the box. I'll have to check for sure, but I'm pretty sure it isn't even mentioned in the manual for the PS3.



That is the issue, sony never really advertised it. It was a feature the console had, and people talked about it, but Sony themselves never advertised it. It isn't really misleading advertising if none of your advertising talks about OtherOS.
Well they advertise that it Only does Everything.

Clearly it does not.
Posted on Reply
#18
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
AphexDreamer said:
Well they advertise that it Only does Everything.

Clearly it does not.
It doesn't make waffles either! Where's my lawyer?!
Posted on Reply
#19
3volvedcombat
Easy Rhino said:
next time, read the EULA. stop screwing yourself over.

you people amaze me. take some personal responsibility for the purchases you make for once in your life.

if enough people read the EULA and understood what sony could possibly do then less people would buy sony and they would have to change their terms.
+1

Frankly, I consider Sony like a Walled Garden of its own, Never going to despise a Console.

Frankly you guys really do bitch a lot but I accept all your opinions. Other-OS is something I can see viable to part of the Play-station Community, but it never was and never will be what Sony did want for there PS3 system, and its pretty obvious. It is just one feature withheld from there console platform.

I bet there will be no "Other-OS" features in there future consoles "PS4" - "PS5".

I believe they do this to stay into agreement with there other escapades like the recent Limited download option viable in the Play Station Store.

Regardless, I still accept consoles, Consoles were meant to Play Video games, Movies, and be Entertainment. At affordable Price tags.

To be honest though, A lot of TPU's opinions that are sided negative go to anything that is blocked by a corporation (Apple,Sony,Microsoft, ect ect..)

newtekie1 said:
No, they really didn't push the feature at all. It wasn't mentioned in any of their mainstream media marketting. Not in TV/Audio ads and not in print ads.

And no, it isn't listed anywhere on the box. I'll have to check for sure, but I'm pretty sure it isn't even mentioned in the manual for the PS3.



That is the issue, sony never really advertised it. It was a feature the console had, and people talked about it, but Sony themselves never advertised it. It isn't really misleading advertising if none of your advertising talks about OtherOS.
I was going to mention that also, No true marketing about it, And I am sure they never really had mind to want it.

It is wrong to take a side feature away without consent, but Sony is just throwing there balls around to let people know what they will get in the future so they do not make wrong decisions.


----------
If it has the word Console on it, Someone should be aware and grown up enough to realize, Its a Console, Treat it like a Console.
If someone says I despise Consoles, That means you despise entertainment and video games at a affordable price, that drives a lot of the technological industry in the first place.
So say by by to your wallets.

Being this is TPU though, we all love to spend unnecessary amounts of cash to our OWN standards for Desktop Computers for enjoyment/hobby/entertainment. And they obviously add more freedom.

Sony is also quite foreign, so their motives are justified by the way they are(slight differences in decisions) Which should also be taken into account when purchasing a PS3.

I do despise Microsoft's Xbox 360, because in its early bird years Failure rates for the consoles itself was 50-60%. Now that is just a JAW DROPPER, and they should have stopped and rethink-ed there plan with production the second these things were happening. That is worse then anything else you really hear, and they do not get shit for it. (They just accepted and extended warrentys) Which is still a negative to have been replacing an RROD 360 in the first place, ITS A HASSLE. People still stuck to it like hotcakes.

the PS3 works, and will always work for its main purpose, entertainment.
Posted on Reply
#20
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
newtekie1 said:
No, they really didn't push the feature at all. It wasn't mentioned in any of their mainstream media marketting. Not in TV/Audio ads and not in print ads.

And no, it isn't listed anywhere on the box. I'll have to check for sure, but I'm pretty sure it isn't even mentioned in the manual for the PS3.



That is the issue, sony never really advertised it. It was a feature the console had, and people talked about it, but Sony themselves never advertised it. It isn't really misleading advertising if none of your advertising talks about OtherOS.
So it was a completely undocumented feature?! It simply showed up on a menu somewhere? If that's true it would make a significant difference in their favour I have to say. However, from the various articles I've read about it and this lawsuit judgement that was delivered, it seems it was documented. It would be interesting to confirm or deny this important point - perhaps different manufacturing runs of PS3 had different documentation that went with them, some documenting the feature and some not?
Posted on Reply
#21
Jizzler
Darkleoco said:
That might not be the best idea, who knows what they will change/remove next...
Sounds like they can rip out a feature at any time. I'll play it safe and continue to hold off on a purchase for awhile longer. Have been holding off since 2006, what's a few more years? ;) Perhaps after the PS4 is out. At that point the features and abilities of the PS3 should be "set" and the likelihood of negative changes low.
Posted on Reply
#22
blibba
digibucc said:

and just who are you? ;)

Rhino is definitely not siding with Sony, he is just pointing out the side of the argument that most whining tweens miss, and is a very important side to recognize. don't take his explanations of their actions as justification or acceptance.
If he's knowingly acting as a devil's advocate, then he could flag that better.

Who am I? Fair question I suppose, even if asked tongue in cheek. I'm a student. I don't own a current generation console. I also don't own a smartphone of any kind, or a portable media player of any kind, or a tablet or indeed any other computing devices other than two desktops, a scientific calculator and a Nokia brick. So one the one hand I'm a neutral observer, while on the other hand I don't have a clue what I'm on about :P
Posted on Reply
#23
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
qubit said:
So it was a completely undocumented feature?! It simply showed up on a menu somewhere? If that's true it would make a significant difference in their favour I have to say. However, from the various articles I've read about it and this lawsuit judgement that was delivered, it seems it was documented. It would be interesting to confirm or deny this important point - perhaps different manufacturing runs of PS3 had different documentation that went with them, some documenting the feature and some not?
Documented? Yes. Advertised? No. It wasn't on the box and it wasn't in the manual and Sony didn't advertise it in any way. Sony provided information about it on their website, but that as more of how to use it than "look at this awesome feature". Sony did not actively advertise OtherOS. If you didn't already know about it, you would never think to look on their website for the information. It was announced in the 1.60 firmware update, and techy people like us picked up on the one line that said "Added option [Install OtherOS]", and word spread though the tech world via word of mouth. However, Sony never advertised it in any way, and didn't include any mention of it on the packaging or in the documents that came with the system.
Posted on Reply
#24
theoneandonlymrk
Easy Rhino said:
if enough people read the EULA and understood what sony could possibly do then less people would buy sony and they would have to change their terms.
while i see exactly what your saying and do agree i think you need to understand that all games , consoles, gadgets even services tend to come with the same balls copied of another co, EULA to agree or sign or to accept on purchae and allmost all of them say essentially you have the right to buy this thing ... you may use at own risk ... and after purchase DO NOT bother us as we have stole your rights... its poor how our rights are allowed to be desolved by an ineffective democratic system where companys and money are writing the script:shadedshu

are we sposed to sit in bored not playing nowt all winter(pc only for me consoles suck imho)

qubit said:
perhaps different manufacturing runs of PS3 had different documentation that went with them, some documenting the feature and some not?
for sure
Posted on Reply
#25
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
theoneandonlymrk said:
for sure
All of the documentation that came with the PS3 is archived on Sony's site here.

You're welcome to look through it and try to find any mention of OtherOS. It wasn't on the packaging either, AFAIK. It isn't on my launch 60GB's box or my 80GB 3rd gen Fat unit's box.

The simple fact is that Sony did not advertise this feature. They provided basic support for its use and that is it.
Posted on Reply
Add your own comment