Microsoft promises not to sue Kinect hackers

A Microsoft spokesman told Ira Flatow on NPR's Science Friday that despite earlier threats, they wouldn't sue people who made and shared their own Kinect drivers.


    1. What does that mean? It seems like they’re actually trying to be decent about this. There are a lot of smart people at microsoft, maybe they’re finally getting heard over the lawyers and marketers.

  1. Microsoft seems more and more like Lucy from Peanuts, holding the football for Charlie Brown to kick. “This time, I _promise_.”

  2. Pray tell somebody from PR engaged at least 3 of their 4 neurons in some seriously challenging mental acrobatics…

  3. This has been a perplexing series of events. One thing is obvious:
    Microsoft could trivially have made the Kinect muuuuuch harder to
    hack, and unambiguously illegal to hack, by using encryption. But they didn’t. So every engineer in the place must have fully expected the protocol to be reverse engineered in a matter of days.

    But the lurching and conflicted MS response shows that management was completely unprepared for this inevitability.

    I think it’s also clear they underestimated the appetite for this type of device in the hacker community. For those like me who do interactive video (,
    the Kinect is the freakin’ holy grail — all of a sudden we a cheap device with accurate depth information, and we’re all grappling with the implications of that, and the million things we can now make with it. Finally a camera that gives good zed!

  4. My guess is the Kinect is sold using the “Gillette model”: you sell the device at a loss, but then sell the razor blades (or games in this case) at a hefty markup.

    If people buy the device but no games, Microsoft is probably losing money on the thing.

    Not that I’m saying they should be able to sue, but I’d guess that’s their own justification.

      1. Interesting, although it should be noted that the manufacturing cost doesn’t tell us a whole lot.

        We don’t know how much stores pay for it, how much the packaging costs, the software cost to make/maintain, any hardware R&D Microsoft had to do, the support costs, etc.

  5. Xenu, if that was their business model, then not taking the trivial step of encrypting the data is the most colossal of blunders. Hence my perplexity: they may be the evil empire, but they’re not stupid.

    I suspect they are in fact selling at a loss. There’s a lot of lovely hardware packed into that thing — it has that nice heft to it that all the best gadgets have.

  6. Microsoft never said they’d sue someone for making drivers. They’d sue one if they extracted the Kinect algorithms from Xbox and reuse them etc. (think most of the Kinect logic runs in Xbox although original plans were to run most in the external device)

  7. They did the math. When you hack an xbox you can play games for free, but what does hacking kinect do? Doesn’t really cost them any lost revenue and they’re probably gonna sell more now that its got uses beyond just playing games. Though if someone starts using a hacked kinect to cheat at multiplayer then we might start hearing some grumbling.

  8. Proving that Microsoft, while a large corporate interest, actually is sane and not evil.

    Not something that can be said for very many other software and firmware producers.

  9. Hearing him speak, I always thought the host of Science Friday was named “Ira Plato.” Like he was distantly related to the classical Greek philosopher.

    Boingboingers might be interested in checking out the Science Friday about the Kinect:

    A listener calls in with an interesting comment about the possibility of using the Kinect’s gesture-recognition technology to allow the deaf to communicate with sign language. Cool stuff.

  10. That’s great. Microsoft promises not to sue people who are doing things that those people have every right to do. Next Microsoft will announce that they won’t sue people for installing CFL bulbs in the same room as their Xbox 360, or for eating potato chips while playing Xbox 360 games.

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