PS4 runs Orbis OS, a modified version of FreeBSD that’s similar to Linux

Autore: ExtremeTech

PS4 GRUB bootloader, showing Orbis OS, based on FreeBSD

The PS4, which is scheduled to be released in November at the delightful price of $ 400, appears to run an operating system called Orbis OS, which is a modified version of FreeBSD 9.0. FreeBSD is a free version of BSD Unix that is generally fairly compatible with most Linux applications, and to the untrained eye a BSD-based system looks a lot like Linux. In theory, with a bit of work, this means you could almost take a PS4 game and run it on a Linux PC — but don’t get your hopes up for some kind of Linux gaming renaissance.

This information comes from leaked photos of the second-generation development kit, which reportedly started shipping to game developers back in November 2012. The screenshots clearly show the GNU GRUB bootloader, with an option to boot into Orbis OS. Orbis, as you may already know, is the PS4′s codename [pre-order the PS4 from Amazon now]. After selecting Orbis OS, a modified version of FreeBSD with a bunch of PS4-specific libraries appears to load. From GRUB, developers can choose between a text-only console version of Orbis OS (primarily for debugging), or a full version with graphics and audio services loaded (i.e. actually playing the game).

PS4 Orbis OS, boot process

It isn’t wholly surprising that Sony opted to construct the PS4 on top of a FreeBSD foundation: FreeBSD is one of the most mature and stable operating systems out there, and it’s licensed in such a way that Sony can use as much or as little as the code as it likes, and use it for commercial purposes without kicking any royalties back to the developers. Unlike Linux’s GPL license, which compels anyone who modifies the code to publicly release any changes they make, the BSD license allows Sony to do whatever it likes with the code; no matter how many changes it makes, Sony never has to share them. In general, BSD licenses are much more desirable for commercial enterprises. It’s also worth noting that the PS3 operating system, CellOS, is also rumored to be based on FreeBSD — if Sony already has extensive experience with FreeBSD, it would make sense to stick with it.

If the PS4 does indeed run a modified version of FreeBSD, we can draw some interesting conclusions. For a start, FreeBSD doesn’t have an official Catalyst driver — but the PS4 is powered by a GPU that’s very similar to the Radeon 7870. Presumably, AMD developed a Catalyst driver specifically for Sony. It would be a huge boon for non-Windows gaming if that driver was made available by AMD, but that’s probably too much to hope for. There’s also the possibility that, as with the initial release of the PS3, the PS4 might support other operating systems, such as Linux — but again, we wouldn’t get our hopes up. (See: Valve: OpenGL is faster than DirectX — even on Windows.)

Xbox One and PS4, product shots

On the Xbox side of things, incidentally, we have no idea what OS the Xbox 360 runs. We know that the Xbox One has one operating system that’s similar to Windows 8, but the gaming OS is shrouded in mystery. [Pre-order the Xbox One from Amazon.] There is a long-running myth that the gaming kernel is based on Windows NT — a myth that Microsoft steadfastly denies, instead claiming that the Xbox OS was built from the ground up. Who knows: Maybe the Xbox OS is based on FreeBSD as well.

Now read: Xbox One vs. PS4: How the next-generation console specs compare

6 thoughts on “PS4 runs Orbis OS, a modified version of FreeBSD that’s similar to Linux

  1. Sappiamo tutti che a breve usciranno PS4 e XboxOne. PS3 e Xbox360 saranno messe da parte?
    Faccio un esempio: Kindgom Hearts 3 sara disponibile per PS4 e XboxOne. Ma per PS3 e Xbox360?
    Possono essere messe subito da parte?

  2. Senti gente su answers dire ” si ps4 è gia in giappone ! e costa €10.000 !!!”
    Ma volete capire che in giappone uscira prima ma non di 10 anni prima ? uscira qualche mese prima e sto esagerando ! roba che se in europa esce a giugno in giappone è uscita nel cuore di maggio !
    Secondo voi è uscta la ps3 3 anni fa circa e hanno gia tutti i soldi da spendere per fare un ps4? e che giochi sopporta? metal gear 5? ma non esce ad agosto? a no e vero in giappone il tempo passa piu velocemente ! che ignoranza la gente che sento dire ” un mio compagno di classe ha detto che li in giappone e uscita da un anno” informatevi !

  3. Non so se comprare la ps3 perchè dicono che uscirà la nuova ps4 a meta 2013 e non volevo ritrovarmi con una console “morta” dopo solo 6 mesi

  4. La PS4 uscirà ad Ottobre – Dicembre 2013. Ma per la PS3 continueranno a farci i giochi? Faccio un esempio… Se esce FIFA 14 su PS4 esce pure su PS3?
    Voi vi chiederete perché faccio queste domande… Vorrei comprarmi la PS3 (non la PS4 perché costerà un botto) ed ho paura che non usciranno più i giochi…
    Voi che dite?

  5. Conoscet qualche sito o negozio dove si possono acquistare giochi a basso prezzo?
    Su amazon hanno detto che i prezzi per ps4 sono provvisori ovvero 70€. Sono provvisori oppure no? Se sono provvisori dopo quano si abbasseranno?

  6. Allora ragazzi mi voglio vendere la ps3 per comprarmi la ps4, solo che non ho capito se la ps4 leggera i giochi della ps3 o no?
    Ho letto che non sarà retrocompatibile allora mi spiegate questo Gaikai a che serve?
    I giochi che ho della Ps3 meli devo vendere o funzioneranno su questo Gaikai?
    Mica i giochi lo dovrò ricomprare su questo Cloud?
    Grazie
    Ciao

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