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Add-on PS3 HDD will run Linux

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Since E3, Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi has been calling the PlayStation 3 an "entertainment supercomputer" rather than a gaming console. Now, he's revealed a new plan to make sure that it's acknowledged as one.

In an interview with Impress PC Watch, Kutaragi disclosed that he plans to install the Linux operating system on the PS3's hard disc drive (HDD) so it will be recognized as a computer, rather than a mere console.

But while Linux would require a hard drive to run on, Kutaragi told Impress PC Watch, "We're not going to equip [the PS3 with] a HDD by default, because no matter how much [capacity] we put in it, it won't be enough." It was unclear whether he was referring to the previously known fact that the PS3 would not have an internal hard drive or whether he was indicating that the device would not come with the external 2.5-inch detachable HDD outlined in the specs revealed at E3.

If the latter is the case, then hard drives will be optional--and will cost extra. Kutaragi seemed to confirm this when he said, "There are still some issues if the machine doesn't come with an HDD." Further comments seemed to indicate that there will be more than one model of optional add-on PS3 HDDs available at launch. "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]." By contrast, the Xbox 360 will ship with a 20GB hard drive, standard. No other 360 HDD models have been announced, although Microsoft officials have indicated larger-capacity models could be produced if needed.

A complete translation of Kutaragi's interview with Impress PC Watch is below:

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 its 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.

IPCW: Does that mean that we can expect applications that take advantage of the Cell, aside from games?

KK: As an example, HD video-editing software is basically the same as the nonlinear editing system used in broadcasting stations. What we're trying to do on the PS3 is that level of software. Nonlinear editing systems are incredible, but if it was done on the Cell, it would be even more incredible... The difference will be obvious. I think other PC applications, like photo-retouching software, will also be able to be done on the PS3. The user interface will also get interesting. In the case of the PC, users will have to wait for years between XP's UI to Longhorn's. But the PS3's UI will evolve much faster. For example, if we had an interface where we could control applications using gestures and words using the EyeToy, it would be like Minority Report. Of course, that kind of an evolution will also reflect on games. This will be the first form that [the Cell] will be spread. It can connect a keyboard, and it has all the necessary interfaces. It can run media, and it can run on a network. It's got such an all-around purpose, and it's open. It will become completely open if we equip it with Linux, and programmers will be able to do anything with it. It's the same thing with the graphics, since it's got the shaders.


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