Sony helps and encourages developers to install Linux on their phones

 

It's no secret that Sony has been in the news a lot lately. From the PSN downtime, with the identity theft issue that comes with it, to the numerous court cases launched to try and quell the PS3 hacking Scene.

It may come as a surprise to many, then, that Sony's mobile smartphone division has taken an almost polar-opposite approach - they're actively encouraging developers to create, modify and install customised Linux kernels into their latest lineup of phones, including the Xperia Play, the device that was once known as "The Playstation Phone".

When Sony originally released their Xperia line of Android phones, many people were disappointed at how locked down the devices were. Many people consider Android's flexibility one of its best features, yet it's difficult if not impossible to install a customized OS if the phone's bootloader is locked down. This was particularly noticeable on Sony's phones as they were slow to roll out newer Android OS versions, leaving many users on Android 1.6 while different manufacturers happily rolled out 2.1 and even 2.2. Many users were annoyed at the lack of updates, but also at the inability to install an unofficial Android ROM.

Sony took a lot of this criticism on board and announced that their 2011 range of phones, such as the Xperia Arc and the Xperia Play, would have the ability to have their bootloaders unlocked. Before the phones were even in stores, Sony launched a dedicated site for unlocking your phone.

However, Sony has now gone a step further and given detailed instructions on how to create your own customized Linux kernel for the devices. The blog goes into great detail on how to build, assemble and flash a kernel using the source that Sony legally has to provide, thanks to the GPL license that the Linux kernels falls under. Customized Kernels are par for the course in the Android world. They're often used to extend the features and functionality of the device, such as allowing it to support additional file systems, improve the camera, increase battery life, and allow for overclocking, among many other things.

It isn't for the feint of heart, though and the blog does repeatedly state that doing anything of the sort could void your warranty, nor do Sony Ericsson promise any kind of support, however they have promised to monitor the community and help out where they can:

Sony Ericsson does not guarantee any support on this, but we will monitor the Building the Linux kernel for Xperia phones thread on the XDA Developers forum. However, we cannot guarantee an answer for every question asked in this forum.

This is a significant step forward for Sony, who appear to have made a complete 180 degree turn when it comes to their mobile devices. It also means that Sony is one of the most developer-friendly handset manufacturers out there, arguably making their phones as developer-friendly as Google's own-brand devices, if not more.

George Hotz once bragged that he would be the first to "hack" the Xperia play, but it seems Sony themselves beat him to the punch by opening the device up to everyone.

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28 Comments

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It's Sony-Ericsson stupid.

And even if it may not be Sonys style maybe Ericsson got something to say about it to?

I'm quite confident Ericsson was the larger of the phone players back when they joined each-other.

Shame its too late to help the millions of people with X10 series phones.. I have a 1gig CPU, an 854x480 screen, 8.1 mp camera and the only way I can load a custom kernel/rom on is to trick the bootloader locked kernel into starting the new one. Having said that, Sony have said they will release gingerbread for the X10 this year so I suppose that is something.
Rather have the full CM7 experiance though.

HawkMan said,
Sony Ericsson is NOT Sony....

Exactly. They're completely different companies when it comes to certain things. This is NOT Sony encouraging Linux kernels, but Sony Ericsson. And Sony Ericsson has always been pretty open.

Yeah, HTC's been slow to get on the unlocking bandwagon, but I suppose it's because of the Apple-like approach they're taking to Android. They lock it down, and make it pretty and simple enough for a regular user. The majority of smartphone users aren't technically smart, they get smartphones so they can go on Facebook, Twitter, and web on the go. And providing root access to that crowd is a bad idea, so I understand why they lock it down. But perhaps maybe issue an official unlocker that the more tech-savvy people can use? I have a T-Mobile G2, and though it was fairly locked down, I still got to permanently root it and flash a custom ROM on it.

DanielZ said,
Yeah, HTC's been slow to get on the unlocking bandwagon, but I suppose it's because of the Apple-like approach they're taking to Android. They lock it down, and make it pretty and simple enough for a regular user. The majority of smartphone users aren't technically smart, they get smartphones so they can go on Facebook, Twitter, and web on the go. And providing root access to that crowd is a bad idea, so I understand why they lock it down. But perhaps maybe issue an official unlocker that the more tech-savvy people can use? I have a T-Mobile G2, and though it was fairly locked down, I still got to permanently root it and flash a custom ROM on it.

The G2 lockdown is how it should be done. It's JUST complicated enough that the average idiot (99.999999999% of the population) can't figure it out, but easy enough that if you can, you do it once and your set for life. I wish they all would go that route.

StevenMalone77 said,

The G2 lockdown is how it should be done. It's JUST complicated enough that the average idiot (99.999999999% of the population) can't figure it out, but easy enough that if you can, you do it once and your set for life. I wish they all would go that route.

+1

DanielZ said,

+1

+1 g2 was pretty "lockdown", but it was easy after i read the rooting instruction twice. my g2x rooting was just plain boring..

StevenMalone77 said,

Get off it already it's getting a little old.

It's not like the world just moves on when a giant corporation gets ****ing about people modding their systems, then encourages it on other devices like they're in love with Linux. It's contradictory and hypocritical.

thealexweb said,
More like we won't update your phone's OS, do it yourself

That's not too bad at all you know? learning something new once in a while helps

Surprising really, I always thought sony were one of the worst for locking down their android phones but this can only be a good thing and I hope more manufacturers do the same.

TangoEight said,
Surprising really, I always thought sony were one of the worst for locking down their android phones but this can only be a good thing and I hope more manufacturers do the same.

+1yeap

yowan said,
Whats their point? They block linux on the PS3 and encourage it on phones??
When running Android, it is perfectly normal to experiment and update the kernel, which Android is dependant on. As the article says, the kernel can improve battery life etc.