Sony Computer Entertainment has begun shipping a £155 kit for turning the PlayStation2 into a Linux console, bowing to the requests of thousands of open-source programmers. The kit is available in Europe as well as the US.
It includes hardware and software for essentially turning the PlayStation2 games console into a Linux PC, with a 40GB hard disk, 10/100Mbps network adapter, USB keyboard and mouse, monitor cable and a Linux installation DVD-ROM. The hard drive can't be used with PS2 games, Sony warned.
The keyboard is in the standard US layout, but can be reconfigured for other layouts, or replaced with any USB keyboard, Sony said.
The kit began shipping worldwide on Wednesday, meeting a deadline Sony set itself at LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in January. In the US, Sony has been taking orders for the kit since March. It sells for £155 ex. VAT (£182.13 inc. VAT) in the UK, and 292.58 euros inc. VAT in the rest of Europe, or $200 (£140) in the US.
For European, Middle Eastern and African orders, Interactive Ideas is taking orders on behalf of Sony at a special Web site, www.linuxplay.com.
The company moved to sell the Linux Kit over the Internet because of its niche appeal. "By distributing the kit via this Web site, we hope to avoid any confusion about what it is, and who it is suitable for, and thus save disappointing those individuals who might buy it in error," Sony said in a statement on the site.
Sony isn't expecting mainstream success with Linux, but is hoping to stoke the PlayStation2's appeal with hobbyists, who could wind up developing for the platform. "In the future, we hope an army of PlayStation developers takes hold," Dominic Mallinson, director of technology for Sony's North American research and development group, said in a January interview. "We are doing this largely for noncommercial reasons. If it just pays for itself as an operating cost, that's fine with us."
More than 9,000 people signed a petition to bring Linux to the PS2, apparently indicating substantial interest. However, it is a small fraction of the 30 million PlayStation2 consoles Sony has shipped so far.
Linux, a clone of the Unix operating system, is most widely used in servers. The software is popular with technophiles and is comparatively easy to move to different computers, so many efforts are under way to move Linux to everything from watches to mainframes.
CNET News.com's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.