Jailbreaking a PS4: the best of all worlds

Posted: 03.19.13

I wonder if you’ll be able to jailbreak a PS4 and run Windows on it? After all, earlier this year, in the US it became illegal to unlock your phone without your carrier’s consent. Or even cooler, run Sony’s Linux OS in a partition and have a dual boot system.

It’s sure to have USB ports so you could hang a keyboard and mouse, or maybe via WiFi—which means it could run PC (Windows) games, which means it qualifies as a PC gaming machine, which means, it’ll run Steam and Origin games.

And with a WiFi connection it’s also a smart TV.

But, the smart folks at Sony and AMD are sure to have thought of this, so the question is, would they want to prohibit it or look the other way and let users get the out of their machine? Remember, when Sony introduced the PS2, one of its selling points was its DVD player. They repeated that philosophy with the PS3, promoting it as a low-cost Blu-ray player.

Sony plans to sell 16 million PS4s in 2013, or within a year of its release; to do so they must price it aggressively and use clever marketing techniques. In spite of all the power of the PS3, as well as being very stylish and a Blu-ray player, consumers still complained about the price, and Sony had to bring it down eventually.

Sony took its time bringing out the PS4, and although the architecture is impressive, it’s not novel; it’s basically a PC with some high-speed memory and a powerful APU. So they had time to think and plan for how they would market the new system.

Another thing to take into consideration is boot up and execution time.

No doubt AMD has crafted some of their fast-boot technology into the BIOS so the machine will come on like an appliance and not some ancient tape-loading minicomputer. But what about execution or app load time? As much as we love PC games, you can go open a bottle of wine and pour a glass before you get to the main menu, which is just another delay. Not so, or not quite as bad in a console. So I expect games written for the PS4, running in Sony’s OS, will load and execute quickly—no, or at least limited, postponed gratification.

Another console differentiating feature will be the gesture sensing capability. The SDK for that will not embrace any Windows apps.

Sony recently acquired Gaikai, which claimed to quickly download and run PC games. Use of Gaikai will now be restricted to delivering games for the Sony network, which make perfect sense, so another differentiation will be that no PC will quickly download and run games (although the technology is there from Approxy).

Driving the TV screen via wireless HDMI will not be unique, but may contain some clever copy protection. 
If it can be jail-broken, that will be one distinguishing feature between PS4 and Windows games.

What would be the downside for Sony if the PS4 could be jail-broken? For one thing it may be perceived as just another low-cost PC. That of course would be a mischaracterization, but it’s definitely going to be suggested by someone.

So here we go again, feeling the elephant and waiting for E3 where we’ll learn a bit more and maybe even see the box. It was amusing that many of the commentators of the PS4 announcement could only find sarcasm to offer in their evaluation of the new machine and criticized Sony for not showing the box or showing any actual games running on it. E3 is typically where the console suppliers show what’s coming for the holiday season.

However, Sony did spend a lot of money to get the jump on Microsoft’s Durango, vowing to not be beaten to market again. However, it’s one thing to announce, and another to ship. When the consumers go hunting for a console, they will first look for the game, and then a machine that can run it. So it almost doesn’t matter who is first with a machine, it’s who is first with the game kids want.

And that could be the trump card up Sony’s sleeve, just as they exploited Blu-ray, what if they let it be known, or said outright, that the PS4 could also be used as a PC. That’s not likely to be something Nintendo would ever say or do, and highly doubtful Microsoft would (even though many have advised them to do just that and not build a new special console).

And unlike the recent launch of Sony’s Xperia tablet—which is intended to restore Sony’s core values in the minds of consumers rather than change the tablet market status quo—Sony fully intends to change the status quo in the console market.

But we may have to change the name. It is not really a console if it isn’t a closed system. And it’s not really a PC if it isn’t designed to run with Windows, so the PS4 is really a hybrid—a P’Console, or a PC’onsole.
Only a month or so wait to find out the answer to these and other questions surrounding the forthcoming PC. I can hardly wait. In the meantime remember, don’t panic and 42 is The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything.