As the PS3's Cell processor can perform some types of number-crunching around 30 times faster than a typical PC, it's not surprising that commercial biomedical organisations such as pharmaceutical companies are taking an interest.
According to the Financial Times, "Sony Computer Entertainment is in discussions with a number of companies about possible commercial applications for the PlayStation 3."
Sony has shown it is technically capable of distributing the necessary code to PS3 owners. The question is whether people would rather contribute their spare processing power to a public project or to a profit-seeking venture.
Most likely some sort of reward would have to be offered. One possibility being considered is for participants to receive either free products or points (presumably redeemable in full or part payment for products and services).
The trouble is that the value of any one user's contribution to a distributed processing project would be small, so the reward would need to be correspondingly minor. Remember, companies can always buy multiprocessor Cell servers from IBM if they've got enough work to justify it. Would you leave your PS3 running for a month in return for say a $5 discount on a game purchase or a free music download, or would you rather donate those CPU cycles to a public project?
Given concerns in some countries about prescription drug costs, pharmaceutical companies could offer participants a discount on any future medication that results from the project they participated in. This could be attractive for the companies, given the relatively low probability that anyone would actually redeem the offer.
There may be some commercial applications that would attract gamers support simply in return for kudos. For example, movie credits go on so long these days that it wouldn't be impossible to include the top 50 contributors to a distributed rendering farm plus another 50 randomly chosen from the remaining participants.
Anyway, the processing power is definitely there to be tapped. The latest Folding@Home statistics show the PlayStation 3 represents just eight percent of the active CPUs, but they are doing 46 percent of the work.