So, Sony thought about further commercialising this aspect. Although Folding@Home is currently a free collaboration between Sony and Stanford, Sony is thinking of extending this facility to other commercial entities. There is no doubt that the PS3 is excellent for scientific computing and I have already blogged about this before. However, not many labs can afford to build clusters of PS3 just for some basic simulation.
What Sony is proposing is akin to the time-slice based system of mainframe use. It is thinking of allowing paying organisations to tap onto the vast network of PS3 consoles scattered throughout the globe for distributed computing. The potential for such a project is enormous. The only snag is trying to convince console owners to allow their machines to be used.
Sony is thinking of rewarding the console owners by giving them free gifts or awarding them points that can be used in their online store. These are fairly simple by not very attractive. In fact, I think that the most attractive proposition would be to give the users a cashback or lease mechanism, which would allow people to own a PS3 for free. Sort of like how the mobile phone companies are working on now. Imagine being able to get cash rebates off the price of a PS3.
Sony wouldn't suffer any loses as the cashback mechanism would be paid for by the organisations that would like to lease time on the PS3. In essense, Sony merely becomes a broker between owners and scientists. The scientists pay Sony to use the PS3 compute time and Sony distributes the payment to the console owners who have signed up to work on a particular project. This mechanism should be fairly easy to implement. Easier still if it is implemented in their online store.
Seems like Sony's marketing department continues to come up with interesting ideas for the PS3. This console might actually have a future. I do believe that it can successfully become *the* set-top box to have. Where the Wii is a unique gaming console and the Xbox is nothing but a souped up last-gen console, the PS3 is starting to position itself as a contendor for the only appliance you need in the living room. Interesting.