One very interesting feature of the PS3 when I bought it on release back in 2007 (I think it was) was the ability to install a linux OS. This was quite cool for people who wanted to give their new-age consoles personal computer abilities. But in 2010 with firmware update version 3.21, the “Other OS” option was killed off. Sony’s reasoning was security.
I remember feeling a little cheated. I payed £399 for a product with a list of features, and that feature list had just been made shorter.
Whatever the excuses of functional roll-back are, they seem to me nonetheless, excuses. If I’m sold on a product and its functions, and one or more of those functions turn out to be unstable or destructive to the initial concept, to the point they are removed, then I have simply been mis-sold something. Though I don’t see hardware manufacturers offering refunds as an alternative to Firmware revisions.
But going back to eighties cassette players for a second, of course our hardware ownership is also compressed and restrained under the threat of warranty invalidation, but now also the restriction of spare parts. A simple cable failure in a high-end laptop could cost us anything up to £60 for an over-titled engineer to switch out – even if we choose to take the risk and invalidate the warranty to fix it ourselves, we would simply not be allowed to purchase the offending part (which would otherwise be a £1.50 cable if it weren’t so proprietary).
This is quite a different world were you from a generation that used to repair its own cars.