Microsoft as the Good Guys? Nah.

I recently read an article in Wired magazine about how Microsoft’s Kinect has reignited the hardware hacking scene. One thing they touched upon is how MS did a total 180, first by saying that they didn’t condone the use of the hardware through anything other than a 360 console, then by saying that they openly support Kinect hacking. In fact, as you probably know, they’re releasing drivers and an SDK for Windows. A big and sudden turnaround like this isn’t seen that often, so when it does, it comes off as a little fishy. And I hate fish.

What I’m getting at is that MS would have you believe they’ve been the good guys all along. They’ve even gone as far as to say their initial negative reaction to Kinect hacking was simply a PR blunder and that they’ve always meant for it to be pseudo-open-source. Maybe I’m a cynical asshole, but I have a hard time swallowing that one. Microsoft saw an opportunity to heighten their stature among us nerds and seized upon it. They knew there was no going back after Kinect was hacked within days of its release. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. They knew their best bet at that point was to feign enthusiasm rather than play their same old grumpy role.

I’m not a Microsoft hater, and I’m not saying that an official Kinect SDK is a bad thing. Not at all. In fact, it was an undeniably cool move on Microsoft’s part. And that influence is spreading quick. Now Sony (doing what they do best) are playing catch-up and releasing drivers for their Move hardware.

What I’ve always been weary of though, is business’ fawning in order to gain support and, ultimately, customers. Manipulation by corporations is usually considered to be the stuff of tinfoil-hat-wearing schizophrenics, but unfortunately it’s a reality. What we have to remember is who’s really on our side – the side that wants to improve technology and society. Is that Microsoft, McDonalds, and Wal-Mart, or the (whitehat) hackers who are coding all sorts of useful Kinect apps? I think the answer is pretty clear.