Though there were some pretty legitimate rumors to the contrary, our good friends at 1up have unearthed an official confirmation on what we've all been keeping our fingers crossed for. Background dowloading is indeed alive and well in the upcoming firmware update:
"Up to 6 pieces of content from the PlayStation store can be queued up for download while the user enjoys other functions of the PS3 system, including playing games, browsing the web, using media functions including photo browsing, video and music playback. Progress of downloads can be easily tracked under a new Download Management menu under the XBM's network icon."
1.6 is turning out to be the PS3's biggest and best update so far. Keep it coming, Sony.
[Via 1up. Thanks Hiroken.]