Imagine you’re a gaming console manufacturer, and some kid hacks your console to do “neat tricks.” Do you help him or sue him?
If you will be apart of Sony you will sue him and if you will be a part of Microsoft you will help him. Why Microsoft will help because Microsoft is set to release a Kinect software developer kit (SDK) to academics and enthusiasts later this spring; the company really is welcoming hackers and curious minds to go to town on its hands-free gestural control interface. Sony and the PlayStation 3, would be gathering some bad PR of its own for suing PS3 hackers at the same time.
Below are some Facts and Answers
Why Is Sony Suing?
Here’s the skinny: Sony is suing, among other entities, George Hotz, a.k.a. geohot, a 21-year-old hacker who is well known for his iPhone jailbreaking. In fact, Hotz created the first-ever public software exploit for jailbreaking the iPhone 3GS. After working on jailbreak software for the iPhone 4, iPad and a slew of other Apple devices, Hotz turned his attention to the PlayStation 3.
Hotz hacked on the PS3 for at least seven months, successfully opening up the console for homebrew games and PS2 emulation. Along the way, he released the root key (also known as the metldr key), which decrypted the PS3?s loaders, allowing anyone who wanted to open up their own PS3s to do so.
Because of that, Hotz is now knee-deep in a bitter lawsuit with Sony, a lawsuit that’s cost him more than he can afford to pay. In fact, he had to beg the Internet for the more than $10,000 he needed to cover his legal bills.
While Sony says Hotz violated copyrights and committed computer fraud, Hotz, who claims to have never played a pirated game in his life, retorts, “They don’t really care about piracy; they care about control.”
How Microsoft Is Helping Hackers?
In a stark contrast, Microsoft seems to not give two shakes about control, at least as far as hacking with the Kinect is concerned.
The company’s brand new gestural control system is as hot as it is financially successful. While many corporations would keep a money-maker like that tightly locked down, Microsoft is doing everything it can to invite more hackers to play with and create experiments with the Kinect.
Microsoft’s big test came last November when a prominent Google engineer staged a Kinect-hacking contest. Previously, Microsoft had made statements that it wanted to make Kinect tamper-proof and would work with law enforcement to ensure that it remained so. But the company changed its tune last November, saying it was “excited to see that people are so inspired” by the possibilities inherent in the Kinect.
Since then, hackers have used the Kinect for everything from World of Warcraft “magic” to music video production.
And today, given the success of Kinect hacking for Xbox, Microsoft announced it will release a non-commercial “Kinect for Windows” SDK. The company says the reason for “a starter kit for application developers is to make it easier for academic research and enthusiast communities to create even richer experiences using Kinect technology.”
The SDK is coming from Microsoft Research (MSR) in collaboration with the Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB), and it will give devs “deep Kinect system capabilities such as audio, system APIs, and direct control of the sensor.”
A commercial version of the SDK will be available soon.
Which Company Is Right?
The bigger picture Microsoft is trying to convey is that, as a company, Microsoft has long been excited about natural user interfaces; and it wants you, the hacker, to be excited about them, too. Granted, there are still likely some strings attached, and we doubt the company would be tickled to have you blog about Xbox jailbreak codes.
Nevertheless, suing users who hack your console versus helping users who hack (part of) your console are two interesting and opposed actions that are likely to be judged with great relish in the court of popular opinion.
How should Sony be handling geohot and other PS3 hackers who just want to make the console do neat tricks? Is this lawsuit really doing anything other than garnering the multinational corporation a boatload of bad PR?