Sony Computer Entertainment has announced they are exploring the possibility of using their PlayStation 3 console for commercial applications in a distributed computing environment.

Masa Chatani, Sony Computer Entertainment’s chief technology officer, was quoted in the Financial Times as saying Sony had received numerous inquiries regarding distributed computing on their PlayStation 3 console. “This kind of computing model could be used in a commercial application,” Chatani said. “We are discussing various options with companies and exploring commercial applications.”

“Distributed computing” is a method of data processing that involves sharing tasks between multiple computers over a network. By distributing the work over multiple systems, researchers and companies have access to computing power far beyond what they could achieve through a normal computing environment. While this model is familiar to many PC users, popularized by such applications as [email protected] and [email protected], it is still a rarity on game consoles.

One area of concern is convincing PlayStation 3 owners to allow commercial enterprises to use their consoles’ processing power for free. Incentive programs may present a solution; Chatani gave as an example one possible scenario in which a company would offer users free products in exchange for their participation.

Currently, PlayStation 3 owners can take part in Stanford University’s [email protected] program, used to study how proteins assemble. According to Chatani, there are 11,000-12,000 PlayStation 3 owners participating in the program at any given minute, numbers “far greater than we had anticipated,” he said.

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