Many people were just tickled to be part of the Folding@home project, in which PlayStation 3 owners could lend some of their spare processing power to a distributed computing effort to fight disease. However, they just might be a bit fazed by the recent news out of Tokyo. With the success of Folding@home -- Sony Computer Entertainment CTO Masa Chatani says that there are 11,000-12,000 Folding@home participants at any given moment -- corporate interests have expressed interest in harnessing that kind of computing power for their own uses.
The problem, of course, is that it's one thing to ask people to donate computing time to a university project that can potentially help people with cancer or Alzheimer's (raise your hand if you don't know anyone affected by either. Hello? Anyone?) and another entirely to help a corporation turn a profit that much more efficiently. (Then again, companies like, say, pharmaceutical firms are always controversial. If Pixar wanted help to speed calculations for their next feature, would you say no?)
Chatani already recognizes that people might be reticent to let companies use their PS3s for free, so he mentions the possibility of incentives like free products in exchange for computing time. Still not a deal-maker for some people (as "free product" usually means something like "cheapie MP3 player" instead of "new sound system"), but that doesn't mean this kind of plan won't eventually happen, with more companies or other organizations looking to borrow time from consoles or desktop computers. How commonplace do you think this will be in ten years?