Phrases I considered for this post's title ranged from "surprising choice" to "sign of the apocalypse." More than a few years ago, I remember buying my first piece of Sony hardware--a video camera. It was one of the first that also let you take digital stills, which it saved to a tiny, purple, proprietary Sony memory stick that was an expensive pain to replace or get a spare of. And that was how I first learned that Sony was mostly only interested in Sony.
Then today I saw a lot of people pointing to the about page of Sony's Networked Application Platform (SNAP):
Sony’s Networked Application Platform is a project designed to leverage the open source community to build and evolve the next generation application framework for consumer electronic devices.
The developer program gives access to a developer community and resources like SDK, tools, documentation and other developers.
The foundation upon which this project is base comes from the GNUstep community...
A little history for those who have never heard of GNUStep: In 1993 NeXT and Sun pushed a free object layer API based on the NeXTSTEP object system, which led to the OpenStep specification. Apple acquired NeXT in 1996, and their Cocoa API is the current incarnation of the old NeXTSTEP and OpenStep environments. GNUstep is an effort at a free software version of the Cocoa API. It includes the Objective-C libraries as well as the tools not only for Linux, but also for Windows. Sony intends to modernize GNUstep for SNAP to include features for things like 3D and touchscreens.
Avi Bryant summarized both possible motivation and humor with one tweet:
After the success of iOS, Sony is using Obj-C/GNUStep for their next-gen dev platform. NeXT gets the last laugh.
Of course this isn't the first surprise turn to openness from Sony. They launched their first Android-based handset just over a year ago, and rumors are that the "Playstation phone" likely to be announced December 9 will be Android-based as well. Interestingly enough, Android 3.0 ("Gingerbread") will be released three days earlier on December 6. If all the rumors add up to be true, it could be a game-changer for gaming on Android.
Good steps, Sony. Keep heading towards open.