Sony Should Embrace Homebrew Flash-based Applications

Posted by Dan on May 31, 2006 @ 9:53 AM

I own a Sony Playstation Portable (PSP). It's a great handheld gaming device—blows away everything else I've seen. However, the one big battle that PSP owners have had w/Sony is wanting to run "homebrew" applications (these are unsigned applications written by users for the PSP and not officially released software.) The original firmware 1.2 had some holes in it that allowed you to pretty easily bypass the mechanisms Sony built-in to allow only signed content to play.

Every since hackers figured out a way to hack the PSP's firmware, it's been a battle between Sony and the hackers. Sony releases a new firmware that fixes the holes and hackers try to figure out another way to bypass the Sony security mechanism to only allow signed content to play.

Each time Sony releases a new firmware, they've generally added some new functionality to the unit. The original PSP firmware didn't include a browser—which was added in the 2.0 release (I believe.) Anyway, Sony tries to entice users to upgrade by offering new features and even having newer games force a user to upgrade. Some hackers are living on old firmware just so they can continue to run their "homebrew" applications.

However, I think there could be a happy marriage opportunity. Something that would give homebrewers want they want, without Sony officially caving in to the request. In the latest version of the Sony firmware (2.7), Sony added support for Flash. Since this time Flash developers have started releasing a slew of Flash games designed especially for the PSP. To play these games, you can download them to your PSP memory stick, open up your browser and go to a local file Url (i.e. file:/PSP/COMMON/game.swf.)

This got me thinking. What if Sony embraced the Flash format even further and allowed you to copy Flash content into a special folder along with some kind of configuration file that would add the Flash application to the a new menu item specialized geared for Flash content. This would allow the "homebrew" audience to still build custom applications for their PSP, but Sony would still be keeping their security in place to prevent users from pirating games—which is the whole reason they are really trying to prevent homebrew applications.

Hopefully Sony sees this as an opportunity to give users the ability to create homebrew applications. While the homebrew applications would have to be Flash-based, Flash should have enough power to create some useful PSP applications. We're already starting to see some developers creating Flash-based games—such as renditions of Breakout, Crossword Puzzles, Tetris and Dizzy. We're also even started to see some generic apps like RSS readers and drawing board applications being released.

Categories: Flex/Flash, Games, Technology


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