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Could the PS3 be a Home Computer Replacement? |

What do most typicaly people use home PCs for?

  • Web Browsing. This is the biggest and broadest use and covers many types of web applications.
  • Messaging: Email and IM
  • Word Processing + Spreadsheets
  • Music + Photos + Movies
  • Games

The PS3 is way ahead of home computers for games, and it’s better for movies (IMO) as well. But the PS3 still has a ways to go in several other areas. What if the PS3 made these improvements:

  • Made a really good web browser. The current browser is great for occasional use when you don’t have a PC handy, but realistically, no one would use the existing browser for their main web browsing. But what if the PS3 really did make a great browser that was nearly as good as a PC: fast, standards compliant, tabs, improved support for USB mouse/keyboard, search box, cookie management, all the preferences and options that power users want, and something that overall could be used as a primary browser. I don’t know if this is possible given PS3’s hardware design, but if they did this, people could use web applications for regular email, word processing, and spreadsheet functionality.
  • Impoved Music and Photo apps. PS3 has great music and photo features, but they still are missing many of the polish and features found in the better PC software such as iTunes, Windows Media, or Picasa.
  • IM. There are web clients, but the native clients work better. Also, people want to use their existing IM networks (AIM, Jabber, etc), not just the PSN network.

Sure, all the programmers, 3D animators, CAD people, and other specialty users want general purpose computers with apps highly tailored to their specific needs, but why does the common user who basically wants a web terminal need a full-blown general purpose Windows/Linux/Mac computer?

If the PS3 did the above, would people really start using the PS3 as a genuine home computer replacement? Would you start seeing PS3’s on desks and in small offices in addition to living rooms?

  • I actually considered using a linuxified PS3 as an office pc and one for a car pc… for 400€ you get SOOO much in a very cool looking and silent package.

    Problem is, on Linux, the PS3s restricted access to the GPU is killing the performance. Even watching DVDs is a hard task, as everything needs to be done by the CPU and thus HD content is out of the question.

    Sony should either a) make XMB software for email, IM and office, or they should b) open up the RSX for 2D (at the very least^^) or even 3D usage. They can even give us a binary blob, but as long as it works, I couldn’t care less! Since the RSX is a derived 7800 (or whatever), the work is already done by Nvidia!

  • Daniel

    So running Linux on your PS3 isn’t the same as Linux on your PC? I was thinking of getting a PS3 for MGS4 soon. I heard you can watch movies from your PC on your PS3, True?

  • Darrin

    Segitz, I think it’s more than limited GPU access. Linux is really fundamentally designed and optimized for general purpose software on general purpose PC hardware. PS3 has specialty RAM and a specialty highly-parallel heterogeneous CPU which can run general purpose OS/software, but not as well as natively designed OS/software.

    Daniel, yes you can use Linux on PS3, but it’s much slower than most PCs. And yes, you can stream movies (and music and photos) stored on your PC to your PS3 (without Linux).

  • Mike

    PS3 does everything the average person does with a computer… but the average person who is not tech savvy enough to make full use of what a PC can do is also unlikely to know much about hi-def movies or next-gen games, which means I doubt they would be buying a PS3. At this point the iPhone is probably more of a home computer replacement because it can used on the go and people seem to buy Apple products no matter how much they cost.

  • Well, Darrin

    if you set up your system right, you can steer around the problems, the small RAM the PS3 has, gives us, like using XFCE and the like. The CPU is more than fast enough to run anything, especially if it is programmed right. There is a fork from the MPlayer guys, that use the SPEs to decode the videos, making them playable on the PS3.

    You can do nearly anything beside gaming on a Linux PS3. I just hope, the CELL programming gets some boost, as there’s nearly no available software available nowadays (especially CPU intense applications like video encoding or ray tracing…)

  • I don’t need my PS3 to be a home computer replacement. That’s what I have my MacBook for. But it would be nice if the PS3 had a decent IM client that could let me chat to friends on gmail, AIM, or MSN. It would also be nice to have a better browser. But as far as editing movies and stuff like that goes, I’ll look elsewhere.

  • I thought about getting a second PS3 to use as a home computer. Ended up not bothering because I could get a much cheaper generic PC for a lot less.

    The new Shuttle KPC is only 99$ and it is about as good as a PS3 at doing PC things.

  • Sporty

    I installed YDL this past weekend just to see how it was. Overall I was impressed, From all the talk I expected it to crawl and be unusable. But for an average user it just fine. I fired up some emulators and played about an hour of Super Metriod, updated firefox and synced my bookmarks. Gauntlet, Joust and just about every older arcade game I tested played just as smooth in PS3 Linux as the ones from PSN or XBLA (other then the extreas, leaderboards and Online play of course). I only tried out Mame, NES, and SNES games so far.

    Its actually faster then some of my friends PCs. But in the end other then some playing around I don’t see myself relying on it more then my PC. Besides I kinda like watching my TV while on the PC.

  • Darrin

    Who has been buying all the PS2s in 2007-2008?

    It’s not the tech savvy (which includes absolutely everyone reading this site) and it’s not the tech phobic (you couldn’t *pay* them to touch a video game system). There’s a large audience in between those two extremes that you guys don’t understand.

    Think blue-collar adults and children of lower income families. I know many of these people. They like video games, they like HD, but they simply don’t have the patience or interest to use PCs. A more web-capable PS3 would be a hit with that crowd.

    Also, think of college students. At home they use their family’s PC, but when they move into a dorm room, they use a PS3 for web acess and word processing, and use a regular PC in school labs or when at home. Instead of having separate TV and computer monitor, they have one screen attached to their PS3 for everything. Sure, most students will prefer a full blown laptop, but there is a sizable market there to be had.

    Yes, you can buy a $100 Shuttle PC, but many like convergence. Just like many people would rather buy a $130 PS2 than a $30 DVD player.

    The iPhone targets the high end. Everyone who buys an iPhone already has a nice computer. Many of the people buying game consoles, don’t have a PC (or a decent PC).

  • John

    You’re all arguing about the $100 shuttle PC, but that is the version *without* CPU and RAM, ie. it’s just a mobo, box & HDD, doesn’t count as a PC… ^_^

    The current PS3 iteration is probably a little too expensive to serve as low-end PC, but when the refresh will come, it should be right there, and hopefully the software will too (here is for hoping Sony will dump the Netfront browser and get a real browser in the PS3, like Firefox 3).

  • There are several linux packages out there for the PS3, Ubuntu, Yellow Dog Linux to name a few. These releases also include Star Office.

    There are tons of applications that you can run on them. I haven’t tested the linux distributions myself yet, but I’ve actually tought about getting a second PS3 as my web/office/mail/IM machine to replace (one of) my PC’s

  • mpz

    Using linux is adequate. It isn’t the fastest machine on the planet, but if it’s stripped down properly it would be fine. Current distros run too much crap though, so it really needs someone to make a more targeted version just for the ps3. A tv, even a good one, doesn’t substitute for a close pc screen for many purposes though. Still, people used to do real work on commodore 64’s hooked up to the telly, so maybe with some reasonable expectations the machine is more than capable.

    Very few if any of the software packages use the cell much – if they did you could get some really great performance out of it. That’s going to take a long time – the developer community is very small and disorganised, and there’s a lot to learn.

    (i’ve got ubuntu on mine, and i’m playing with spu coding)

  • matt

    Just get a better browser that runs faster. I love the fact i can surf the web on a 50″ from my couch. I hate the fact that many sites I use are only half usable because of limitations with the PS3 setup. If Sony wanted to the could really push this feature and make it practical.

    I would love to stream music from the web directly from the PS3.

    I use my computer to check email and surf the web for 98% of my computing needs. I have computers at work if I really wanted to get rid of my two PCs. PCs are too cheap compared to the PS3.