Microsoft is venturing where few big companies dare to go by embracing those who jailbreak Windows Phone 7 and hack its Kinect gaming system. In doing so they're not only helping themselves, but anyone who uses technology.
Technology companies typically look askance at those who jailbreak their phones. Apple, for example, tried to make jailbreaking the iPhone illegal back in early 2009, arguing:
"Current jailbreak techniques now in widespread use [utilizes] unauthorized modification to the copyrighted bootloader and OS, resulting in infringement of the copyright in those programs."
Apple eventually lost that argument. That hasn't stopped other companies from trying to stop people from hacking into their hardware --- even though the people doing the hacking actually own the hardware.
Sony, for example, has filed a lawsuit against a group of people who released tools that would allow games copied illegally to run on the PlayStation 3.
Enter Microsoft, who is taking the exact opposite tack. According to Wired, Microsoft has been meeting with Windows Phone jailbreakers:
to discuss how they can support "homebrew" apps --- third-party software that doesn't require the approval of Microsoft --- in a way that benefits both parties.
Microsoft also tweaked Sony, when it gave a free copy of a Windows Phone 7 to Geohot, one of the people responsible for the PlayStation 3 hack, after he blogged that he planned to buy a Windows Phone 7. Here's what the Windows Phone 7 team tweeted to him:
if you want to build cool stuff on #wp7, send me email and the team will give you a phone --- let dev creativity floursh #wp7dev
This is the second time that Microsoft has embraced hacking of their systems. After first issuing a veiled threat to those who hacked the Kinect, Microsoft ended up supporting them. Craig Davidson, senior director for Xbox Live at Microsoft told the New York Times:
"Anytime there is engagement and excitement around our technology, we see that as a good thing."
Microsoft has recognized that key to a product's success is the buzz created around it, and the apps and ecosystem that grow up around it. And if you want that buzz and ecosystem, you have to put up with some unruliness --- people hacking your hardware and software in ways you might not be pleased with. That helps all of us, not just Microsoft, because it means that there are better apps and more creative uses of the company's hardware and software.
Microsoft deserves congratulations for this attitude, because it's a break with the company's past, and a good one to see
This story, "Microsoft Embraces Phone Jailbreakers and Kinect Hackers, Everybody Wins" was originally published by Computerworld.