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Nest Reminds Customers That Ownership Isn't What It Used To Be (eff.org) 268

Alphabet-owned Nest recently announced that it will be turning off Revolv Hub next month. An anonymous reader shares an article on EFF, a privacy rights group: Nest Labs, a home automation company acquired by Google in 2014, will disable some of its customers' home automation control devices in May. This move is causing quite a stir among people who purchased the $300 Revolv Hub devices -- customers who reasonably expected that the promised "lifetime" of updates would enable the hardware they paid for to actually work, only to discover the manufacturer can turn their device into a useless brick when it so chooses. This is far from the first time that customers' software and electronics have been downgraded by manufacturers. Updates can disable features the customer paid for that have fallen out of favor with the vendor, as when Google disabled privacy settings on Android or Sony took away the ability to run GNU/Linux on a Playstation 3. Manufacturers can even render a device unusable until the customer "agrees" to new terms of use, as Nintendo did with the Wii U. Other software and devices, including some video games, are designed so they simply stop working when they can no longer dial home to a server run by the vendor.
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Nest Reminds Customers That Ownership Isn't What It Used To Be

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  • To any Canadians (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashiki&gmail,com> on Wednesday April 06, 2016 @10:35AM (#51853359) Homepage

    Dear Canucks, under your provincial consumer protection laws(varies by province) you are likely entitled to a full refund of the product price regardless of when you bought it. Revocation of a lifetime agreement, even when the company is bought out is considered a breach of said warranty and support agreement under the law, and you are permitted to a full refund. Remember, if refused it only costs $20-40 to file in small claims court over this, and you do not have to settle for arbitration in Canada, jumping through that hoop is not required.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 06, 2016 @11:04AM (#51853549)

      A good reminder as to why we americans consider canada our escape plan.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SumDog ( 466607 )

        I have friends who tell me "if x wins, I'm moving to Canada," and I just have to say, "No..no you're not. You're a moron."

        Having living in Australia and New Zealand, I know what visa processes are like. It's involved. Unless you're in a skilled profession, in an in-demand field and are willing to sign your life away, you're not going to Canada. If you're under 30, you CAN easily get into AU/NZ (and if you just graduated or are enrolled in classes, Ireland as well), thanks to Holiday Work Visas. They're only

        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by CanEHdian ( 1098955 )
          The province of Nova Scotia is actively petitioning with the Federal government to increase the amount of immigrants that are allowed in through the "provincial nomination" program. If you're English-speaking, had a good education/have relevant experience, you're more than welcome. And that's permanent residency we're talking about.
          • Tell me more. I am a systems analyst with ten years of experience and I am seriously considering leaving forever the shithole that Brazil is becoming. Laws here are not worth nothing anymore and everything is moving towards a civil war. I may have to leave the country while I still can (before the country becoming a dictatorship again).
          • Nova Scotia? What kind of work is there in NS besides working on fishing boats? Seriously, I've never heard of NS having any kind of tech work; in Canada, the two main places known for tech work are Vancouver and Toronto. Montreal might have some, but you probably need to speak French.

        • Having living in Australia and New Zealand, I know what visa processes are like. It's involved. Unless you're in a skilled profession, in an in-demand field and are willing to sign your life away, you're not going to Canada.

          Hmm...why can't we enact something sensible like this in the USA?

        • OK, how about "if x wins, I'd welcome a Canadian invasion and coup d'etat"?
        • And here at 34 I was hoping to move to new zealand since they need programmers

        • Why do they always say they're moving to Canada? Why not Mexico? Racists.
          • It's the water.

          • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
            Because, though Canada official speaks French, outside Quebec, nobody actually does. In Mexico, aside from Cancun, you'll not get far on English-only. Though much of Mexico DF works in English, it'd be hard to get by without Spanish.

            It's not racism, it's linguistic simplicity.
        • AUS/NZ have some pretty messed up governments in many ways though compared to Canada.

    • Dear Canucks, under your provincial consumer protection laws(varies by province) you are likely entitled to a full refund of the product price regardless of when you bought it. Revocation of a lifetime agreement, even when the company is bought out is considered a breach of said warranty and support agreement under the law, and you are permitted to a full refund. Remember, if refused it only costs $20-40 to file in small claims court over this, and you do not have to settle for arbitration in Canada, jumping through that hoop is not required.

      So, tell us what we've won? A $300 judgment in a Canadian court against an international entity. Let's hope that 100 or more people win similar judgements so that it might attract the attention of an attorney who might start a class action injunction against said company and potentially motivate them to either: pay up, or quit doing business in the country. I don't know about Canadian laws in this area for collection of legal fees, but if the class action attorney can't collect his fees separately, I'm s

      • Under UK law its the seller that is on the hook, so if you bought it from Amazon then Amazon provide the refund - someone invoked this when Sony stripped the OtherOS out of their Playstations with an update, got their money back in full.

    • $75 to file at small claims. This was 8 years ago so I'm assuming it's probably closer to $100 now. The fees incurred to go to small claims in most cases cannot be added to the damage claimed.

      Also, last I checked, most electronic manufacturers that offer lifetime warranties only offer it for a year after EOL. If your product has a revision that was EOL, you need to make sure you are within the window specified in the small print.

      If enough of these cases come through, the vendor will make arrangements with t

  • by LaRoach ( 968977 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2016 @10:36AM (#51853371)
    They disabled LTE on my Nexus 4 with an update. Nothing like a "flagship" device that has 3G...
    • Can this be fixed by flashing a custom ROM? Or did they sabotage the radio?
      • by LaRoach ( 968977 )
        The XDA crowd came up with a custom flash of some sort for it. The damage was done by that point however. I had loaned the friend to a relative who said "Nope, if they'll do stuff like that I'm gettin' an iPhone".
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 06, 2016 @11:17AM (#51853665)

      The Nexus 4 *never* had LTE enabled in official software builds. It wasn't FCC certified to use LTE. The fact that they made the unsupported hack to enable LTE more difficult with a firmware update is not a remotely comparable situation to this. And besides, I did have LTE enabled on my Nexus 4 (was possible even with the most recent updates using hybrid radio firmware) but left it off most of the time. The power hungry first-gen LTE radio made the already bad battery life of the Nexus 4 even worse.

      • by LaRoach ( 968977 )
        I may be using "LTE" wrong (this was several years ago). I'm on T-Mobile and they started calling HSPA+ "LTE" to compete with other brands. The N4 did support HSPA+ out of the box and had great throughput. After they pushed out their updates mine lost the capability of using HSPA+ and was locked firmly into the old 3G speeds.
    • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2016 @12:09PM (#51854077) Homepage Journal
      One reason I did not buy a Nest was because Google bought it. Google does not have a good track record of supporting or maintaining consumer products. With software, particularly when they are giving it away, this is no problem. But with hardware that costs money, this is. Just another data point in not trusting Google.
    • On most carriers, theres a tool on google play that reloads the correct radio/modem that readds LTE.. My Nexus 4 is on Ting/tmobile, and it works peachy here...
      https://play.google.com/store/... [google.com]

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2016 @10:59AM (#51853507)

    Why doesn't Google just release the source code and/or the protocols needed to make it work? They can keep proprietary bits that they don't own the source for (radio drivers, etc) as closed source blobs and open the rest of the code that they own.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 06, 2016 @11:09AM (#51853595)

      Because limiting control to vendor-only is part of the "smart" in "smart home". If the owner (or "inhabitant") has control, then its automatically dumb and anti-progress. Your homes become the colonization ground for the big tech companies. And you even pay for it, willingly. What a great accomplishment of the marketing department.

      If a majority of the people don't like it, the companies will find ways to lure them to do that deal. But they always will do products as restricted as possible, that still sell, because with that they can make most money. That's the new business model of the digital age. It will come to other areas too.

      In the end we will have re-introduced serfdom, you don't own anything anymore, but the companies control every tiny part of your life. The owners of the companies will be the new upper class.

    • by mungtor ( 306258 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2016 @11:25AM (#51853745)

      Because it isn't worth the effort for a product that obviously isn't selling?

      As it is, it's just safer (from a liability standpoint) to brick the devices and pay off the owners. If they just leave them "unsupported", what happens 2-3 years down the road when somebody discovers a vulnerability that allows remote access? Who is liable when somebody remotely unlocks your front door and walks off with all your stuff?

      Better to just brick them and force people to find a supported solution.

    • Because the device doesn't allow enough spying on you and the EULA for the service and hub don't allow Google a way to increase the spying on you.

      In short, its anti-google, it doesn't let them watch you fuck your wife and know everything else you do in your home, so they don't want it to exist. If they give you the source you may continue using it instead of buying the next version that REQUIRES the ability to spy on you.

  • This sh*t again? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `nosduharabrab'> on Wednesday April 06, 2016 @11:02AM (#51853533) Journal

    Look, we were already over this earlier this week, with the story that lied about them bricking the hubs. There's nothing to stop anyone from reverse-engineering the protocol and getting the devices to work as intended again - nothing but money. This is what you get for trusting the cloud.

    You wanted an app that could work from your phone from anywhere else in the world? Either run your own server, pay someone else to, or do without the remote functionality.

    Yet another IoT fail.

    • There's nothing to stop anyone from reverse-engineering the protocol and getting the devices to work as intended again - nothing but money

      The vendors argue with the DMCA that you can't install foreign ROMs on the devices. And thanks to key pinning and other techniques, its impossible to replace the server side with at least changing small parts of the ROMs.

      • You can change the physical rom chip. You can't crack the original rom. 2 different things. You're not looking to crack the rom, just listening in to the communications protocols to design your own rom. No code misappropriation or hacking involved.
        • by Holi ( 250190 )
          So we should ignore that when Nest purchased Revolv they promised continued support? And now you are suggesting that replacing soldered on ic's is reverse engineering protocols?
    • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2016 @11:18AM (#51853675) Homepage

      Look, we were already over this earlier this week, with the story that lied about them bricking the hubs

      The product will 100% stop working as sold. Period.

      They don't even dance around it, here is Revolv's FAQ.

      "What happens to my Revolv service?

      As of May 15, 2016, Revolv service will no longer be available. The Revolve app won't open and the hub won't work"

      Sure, it's not technically bricking the device, but they're throwing all functionality away, telling you it won't work, and basically saying you could feel free to replicate the service by writing your own app, server, and re-engineering the protocol to recreate what you have to recreate the functionality.

      But it's a completely dishonest thing to claim that article lied about bricking the device.

      You will 100% end up with a non-functioning device, and none of the parts to make it work without a considerable amount of engineering going into it. Like, a massive bit of engineering and creation of infrastructure.

      This is kind of like Boeing saying they'll no longer support your aircraft, but you're free to go and build your own aircraft maintenance program by reverse engineering the plane you have. It's pretty much bullshit.

      The product has neither functionality nor value without the stuff which makes it work, so for all intents and purposes, they really have bricked the damned thing, because it will entirely cease to function as sold to you.

      The hub will DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING after that date. That's not just remote functionality, that's all of the damned functionality. And that's what Revolv's own FAQ says.

      How you can claim that making it 100% useless is any different isn't the same as bricking is beyond me.

    • How about we allow the damn things to at least work in our home network without having to use the cloud - that's what pisses me off about the IoT things I have, everything on my end is up and running, but if "the cloud is down" it still doesn't work.

  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2016 @11:04AM (#51853547)
    Welcome to the future of the Internet of Everything!
  • by bangular ( 736791 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2016 @11:04AM (#51853551)
    I hate to say it, but the general population doesn't really care. If they did, they wouldn't buy/use this stuff and the companies would go out of business. It's not a situation where people aren't informed, they just don't care.
    • by mark-t ( 151149 )

      I'm not so sure it's that simple. A lot of times when shit like this goes down, nobody was expecting it from *THAT* company, and it catches the "owners" entirely off guard. At least initially, yes... I'd say that it is a situation where people are uninformed.

      As for why people keep going back, I would suggest that apathy plays less of a part in the matter more than the inconvenience of doing without whatever product or service that the company has offered.

      • by Holi ( 250190 )
        "As for why people keep going back, I would suggest that apathy plays less of a part in the matter more than the inconvenience of doing without whatever product or service that the company has offered."

        exactly, and as to why people keep going with the cloud option has more to do with the lack of any other option. If you are using the cloud without any real reason to then you are using the cloud to sell your customers info as an added income source, which should be a big fucking warning sign.
    • I did felt for this kind of trap myself. I did bough a netatmo thermostat for my home. I though it was some kind of home thermostat with an integrated web server for use with my tablet. But actually that thing connect to the internet to the netatmo servers :-( I tried to ask on the netatmo forum for information about their politic about the EOL of their products but got no response from them. I really hate that. I am looking how I can revert my mistake (searching for any current reverse engineering project

    • I hate to say it, but the general population doesn't really care. If they did, they wouldn't buy/use this stuff and the companies would go out of business. It's not a situation where people aren't informed, they just don't care.

      Not quite, most people actually aren't informed, and if they were then more of them would care (certainly not all, but more.) It's why stories like this are important, to raise awareness and hopefully push product development in more consumer friendly directions. Not just "we know what consumers want, they want us to control everything so they don't have to care" directions, also in the direction of "our products still have value even after the next internet bubble pops."

      • And if you do inform them, they think, "oh, but it won't happen with this product, because (Google is big/product is shiny/they respect the company/other reason)"
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Is it REALLY don't care or is it more a DON'T KNOW situation? Perhaps they didn't understand that the thing wouldn't work at all if the server went away. Perhaps they actually believed that "lifetime" meant something other than "until we take it down on a whim".

    • Of course they care, but there haven't been enough high profile examples yet to bring it to general attention yet. People didn't care about DRM on music, and then after enough exposure to the bullshit they did. Stop lording it over other people, you're not better, you're just in this field therefore aware of stuff earlier.

    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      The general population has gotten used to a world of generally good consumer protections and safety requirements. While some of us have seen this coming for a little while longer with things like the early iPods and what not most simply don't get how much power this "cloud" model takes from them. They have not been burned much with those techy toys because by and large the support for them lasted as long as anyone wanted to use one any. By the time M$ abandon the Zune, most people had moved on to a bette

  • There are two classes of product that we might get upset about:
    (1) A product (hardware and/or software) that requires a Service to operate. Examples include a multiplayer video game, which may stop working if they turn off the servers. This appears to be the situation with the Revolv.
    (2) A product that does not require a Service to operate. Like a Wii, or a Blu-ray player. This product might use a Service to update itself, or gain additional features, but should keep working indefinitely without the Service

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2016 @11:11AM (#51853605)

    I wonder if the high level of technological obsolescence (whether planned or just practical) makes the notion of "lifetime support" kind of wink-and-a-nod sort of thing where most people think that lifetime only matters for the next three years and that nobody really expects support for the next 10 years.

    If technology lasted as long as my washer-dryer, I might take lifetime more seriously.

    (Yes, you in the back taking notes on a Palm Pilot, you are an outlier.)

  • by EvilSS ( 557649 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2016 @11:13AM (#51853623)
    It's just that all those lovely cloud servers it relies on to do useful stuff will go away. You still own the hardware though. Feel free to use it as a paperweight or door stop all you like.

    As an aside, are there any decent non-cloud-dependent home automation controllers that a) don't cost a fortune (aka most commercially available ones), b) actually work properly*, and c) work with common off-the-shelf protocols like zigbee and zwave?

    *and by that, I mean something who's primary property isn't being a Rube Goldberg contest entry?
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      So when someone cubes your car, you'll be good with that because you still own the cube sitting in your driveway?

  • by gachunt ( 4485797 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2016 @11:16AM (#51853649)

    We are shutting down your pacemaker at the end of this month as we are focusing on artificial hearts instead.

    We recommend getting your affairs in order prior to that date.

    As a sign of thanks for your years of loyalty, we've randomly picked the exact time that your pacemaker will stop working, so your actual death will still be genuine surprise.

    We hope you continue to use our products for years to come,

    • A better joke might have been "We are shutting down your pacemaker at the end of this month as we are focusing all of our efforts going forward on our new casket business (click here to see our new line of products!)"

  • control == ownership (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Yet another example of:

    "The lesson everyone should take from this is: you don't own something which requires a network connection and can be updated via the network."

    http://boingboing.net/2012/07/03/cisco-locks-customers-out-of-t.html

  • to avoid this nonsense is to drop the object like a hot potato, write off the loss and try to avoid this BS in the future.
    In a way, any use of toys makes you dependent for the sole purpose to transfer $$'s into different pockets, once it's there, you are at other's whim and open for frustration having your expectations killed.
    Does one really need all this hype? Good question, seems to stimulate something in people's nervous systems.

    Same goes for those popup intrusions - open in a new window/tab and if it a

  • I last saw this sordid tale yesterday [slashdot.org].

  • KISS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moof123 ( 1292134 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2016 @11:29AM (#51853775)

    Seriously, I've never had a light switch or door key get bricked by the manufacturer. The more I go through life the more I want less electronics in places where the value is dubious. My time is worth a lot, and having to unearth documentation, or deal with software revisions is a real pain. I want the Easy Button for all the day to day stuff I don't want to think about.

    There will always that small subset (over represented here) that get joy and fulfillment fiddling with things for the sake of fiddling with things. In some parts of my life I am the same. Home automation is not one of them. Having the source code to compile my own distro for home automation is not desired, I want it so simple and bullet proof that I never have to think about it after installation, or I don't want it (no matter what "it" is).

    My fridge should never phone home, get viruses, get bricked, lose/gain features, spy on me, or have a touch panel. It should make cold using the smallest amount of energy for as many years as possible, full stop.

    • This is the reason I bought a fully mechanical numeric keypad lock for my house. It requires no power. There are lots of electronic keypad door locks available which connect to mains power, have a backup battery and a key which bypasses the numeric pad if all else fails but why go that way when there is a much simpler solution?
      • There are lots of electronic keypad door locks available which connect to mains power, have a backup battery and a key which bypasses the numeric pad if all else fails but why go that way when there is a much simpler solution?

        Because just like you're using a remotely hosted forum for your recreational communication and socializing (instead of driving someplace to a room full of people that meet in person every Thursday to joke about Natalie Portman and Hot Grits), some people DO want to remotely unlock their front door for the neighbor to feed their dog (or whatever). You're not looking for a simpler solution, you're looking to stick with simpler problems.

    • by g01d4 ( 888748 )

      less electronics in places where the value is dubious

      I think we're seeing one facet of the internet of things which in this case has become a problem of a solution in search of a problem.

    • There will always that small subset (over represented here) that get joy and fulfillment fiddling with things for the sake of fiddling with things.

      There will always be a subset that will assume a product is fiddling just for the sake of fiddling because they either don't understand or don't have the requisite user case for the product.

      I've never had anything bricked by the manufacturer either. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy living in highly networked world where technology has made things simple for me. e.g. keyless entry into a car. Sounds stupid right until you're the one doing the shopping every day and you're trying desperately to juggle shopping

      • Get a cart, man.
  • Verizon just recently discontinued their XBOX and Smart TV apps, giving us exactly two weeks notice. I was using this service to avoid renting cable boxes at $10/mo each. When I called to complain they said "Rent some cable boxes." Instead I used the opportunity to cut the cord. Bye Bye Verizon!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    he Internet of Things falls into a few categories:
    1) Devices that are to be used against you.
    Example: The "Smart Meters", which form a 'mesh' network, and can be turned off remotely to 'save power', etc. Water meters have been made doing the same thing, "to save water". Expect them to first be 'voluntary', and then 'mandatory'. Usage patterns will then be flagged, for 'suspicious' behavior.

    2) Devices that function like the extension of the supermarket loyalty card.
    Example: The "Smart refrigerator" which

    • by Etcetera ( 14711 )

      The Internet of Things falls into a few categories:
      1) Devices that are to be used against you.
      Example: The "Smart Meters", which form a 'mesh' network, and can be turned off remotely to 'save power', etc. Water meters have been made doing the same thing, "to save water". Expect them to first be 'voluntary', and then 'mandatory'. Usage patterns will then be flagged, for 'suspicious' behavior.

      Smart Meters are far more about saving money for the utility company. Unless you're outsourcing to the post office (which is designed for this), sending people out to read everyone's meter is expensive and time consuming when simple telemetry can provide what's needed. They only send people out when they think there might be a problem.

      Maybe you're thinking of NEST-like thermostats and whatnot, but those are different from "Smart Meters" as the phrase is currently used in the US.

      2) Devices that function like the extension of the supermarket loyalty card.
      Example: The "Smart refrigerator" which keeps track of your diet, what's inside, and what your ordering from the supermarket. All helpfully passed onto 3rd party marketeers. You are the product being sold.

      Maybe it's different where yo

  • What has changed is that big media companies want you to adopt their sad, broken, version of non-ownership and believe that it is some new kind of ownership when in fact it is not ownership at all.
  • How you can compare the hardware or software of a video game, used for entertainment, to things like light switches and other parts of a functioning home is beyond me. I've been holding back from making purchases in this particular growth area of technology and the attitude of the market leader tells me I should continue to do so. This is a total crock.

  • So while I will readily agree that this current issue is a dick move and probably doesn't save Alphabet all that much money (it's not like the hub was super popular in the first place), I find the comparison to Android rather misplaced.

    Google disabled privacy settings on Android

    App ops was obviously test software and had not been advertised as a feature. You needed third party apps to enable it and many apps would crash since the (correct, I might add) assumption was that the app would have access to all permissions it had requested. While it's take

  • And guess what? The Corpocrats know exactly how this game works, so together with the Bureaucrats they concoct verbiage in Trade Agreements that protect this scheme, not allowing you to remove/bypass the DRM (unless you want to be a criminal). The elected representative only get to say Yay or Nay against the whole thing ("I'll have the Deluxe burger but hold the tomato" doesn't work here, you're going to have to swallow the tomato as well).

    Say, has anybody had the courage to ask Mrs. Clinton what her curren

  • Business is too one sided. The buyers need to be much more assertive regarding their rights. When a company abandons a product, they should not be allowed to have any rights over it. It all has to be put into the public domain. If we don't demand it, then we will continue to suffer.

  • I get the point with the Nest that It's easy to configure through a web browser on a computer screen compared to the typical programmable thermostat, with a tiny monochrome screen and something like three buttons. The thing is that you don't really need to go through a cloud service to accomplish that. They could implement it like the internal configuration page of a broadband router or a printer, operating only within your own LAN. That's how I would want such a device to operate. If you really wanted to adjust your heat from outside, you could use a remote desktop application to get into your LAN. Any statistics could be computed and kept right on the device. There is just no benefit to the consumer of using a cloud service for these functions that I can think of. So, I think the Nest was designed to be a data collection device. It was not designed to serve the customer.
  • I just don't get how even the people that are (rightfully) up in arms about all this will still inevitably go right out and buy another product (even from the same manufacturer that screwed them once already) that blatantly uses proprietary lock-in crap to remove ultimate control/ownership from the customer, and even allows the manufacture to data mine your life and decide what you can do with your own damn property, including disabling the it at any time with no comebacks.
    Where does this ridiculously naiv

  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2016 @02:07PM (#51854963)
    why I refuse to put any of my home systems under control of anything that depends on the Net to function. I've been looking for simple Bluetooth-enabled thermostats (etc.) for a long time, and Nest is not the solution.
  • Sony took away the ability to run GNU/Linux on a Playstation 3.

    If you upgraded the firmware.

    Which almost everyone did without a second thought.

    It was a clever hack buying wholesale lots of the heavily subsidized PS3 to build your high performance computer. Rather than SONY's more expensive commercial grade Cell hardware. But it guaranteed that the Other OS was going away and never coming back.

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