Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Embrace the Hacker! How companies are doing it wrong when it comes to hacking.

Posted Apr 14, 2011 12:04 am @

If you weren't aware, the well known hacker GeoHot and Sony recently settled over his widespread finding and posting of the PS3's root key. Sony is worried about it making piracy easier, however didn't he just help Sony out? Who is in the wrong here? Are companies like Sony fighting a losing battle?

Let me start off by catching those of you up who may not have heard about this. GeoHot is a hacker most well known for helping to jailbreak the iPhone OS. His most recent exploit involved him finding the PS3 OS root key. Essentialy this is what allows a program to run regardless of source. Having this key in an app would allow you to install an OS of your choice, or even play pirated games if you are feeling more nefarious.

As soon as he posted the key online, Sony instantly went into lawsuit mode. The two parties have recently settled, and the result is GeoHot is no longer able to talk about the key or how he obtained it.

Some thought this is OK because you should be able to put whatever OS you want on a $300-$600 device. Some thought Sony was in the right because you agree to an EULA when you buy it and this is against it.

I feel both of those sides are missing the key point here, and it's a similar point in every case like this. The individual you are suing just did something all of those engineers you pay didn't do. He found a security hole, and a big one at that.

Today you see headlines like this:

" service interuppted by fellow hackers over GeoHot case."

If Sony just got their head out of their rear, you'd see these headlines:

"Sony hires hacker who discovered security problem in OS. Working to more open platform."

Every time one of these cases comes up, it only empowers others more to find your problems and exploit them. The funny part is 80% of the time these guys/gals have no negative intentions. They just have a hobby and want to use their devices how they see fit.

A great example is Microsoft recently. Take a look at Kinect. How many videos and articles have you seen with people using Kinect in a purpose other than released for? What if Microsoft had sued every one of those people? Instead they embrace it, and are excited for it. They are getting more uses for their device for FREE. It also comes with free advertising. Because in the end, someone still has to buy your device to implement them.

So Sony, Apple, and all the other companies that sue this community. Stop. You are only hurting yourself and losing a huge group of talent that so far has asked for nothing other than to leave them alone.

Thought provoking article. I have some simple answers as to why Sony isn't following Microsoft's lead. PS3 is a console, the Kinect is an accessory. If you've worked a day in the Retail Electronic world, you know that all consoles come at or below cost 99% of the time. The Kinect, on the other hand, I an accessory. Yes, it's an overpriced double webcam. How much does it cost Microsoft to manufacture? Probably around $40-50 per unit. That means on the average Kinect sale, they're still gonna be netting a profit on the sale. Now turn around and look at the PS3. The average price of the hardware is $300-400 for a console, and you're looking at pretty much the price of the hardware, packaging, and shipping to the retailer. There's not much profit to be had when you consider that these consoles will almost hands down outperform a $300-400 computer. Don't believe me? Follow this link and show me one tower that has a high end graphics card and a Blu-Ray drive. Now, don't get me wrong. Sony is still probably turning a $40-50 dollar profit on each unit, but with overhead that high it's not easy for them to choke down such little profit. Sure, they might be one of the few that actually produces their own Blu-Ray drives. But that productions center is yet more overhead that they must manage.

My big question, why haven't they entered the desktop computing market? This entire scandal is jumping around, kicking and screaming "HEY YOU EXECS! THERE'S A FREAKIN DEMAND FOR THIS? WHY NOT SELL IT"? How many people do you know that use their PS3 for Blu-Ray? You know how hard it'd be for Sony to make a deal with say... Google? Instead of "Other OS" linux support it could easily be ported over to Android OS. Almost same customizations? Check. Massive fanbase? Check. Massive developer-base? Check. Huge opportunity for Sony to start coding for Android / PS3 market and reaching exponentially more clients due to the Tablet craze that's brewing and the smart phone market? Check.

But hey... I guess ideas like that are the reason I'm not working for Sony... Right?


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