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Microsoft: No Xbox for You! 588

Markel writes "According this this story in the Sydney Morning Herald, Microsoft is very concerned about a man having been acquitted after allegedly selling [mod chips for a PlayStation]. So concerned in fact, that they are saying: change the law, or they will have to reconsider selling the Xbox in Australia. Not selling the Xbox is well within their rights, but putting it in a (I paraphrase slightly) "change the law or we'll .." context seems assuming a bit too much. I guess well see how many of our MPs are XBox gameheads."
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Microsoft: No Xbox for You!

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  • Misleading Summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rura Penthe ( 154319 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:00PM (#4482585)
    The trial in question was actually about a man who sold PS2 mod chips to allow PS2s to play imported and copied games. Not some magical chip that allows the Xbox to play PS2 games.

    Excellent editing there. :)
    • by unicron ( 20286 )
      So then WTF does Microsoft care?
      • by Rura Penthe ( 154319 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:06PM (#4482635)
        I would assume they're worried that it will set a precedent for people who sell any kind of mods in Australia. If the PS2 guy gets off, how can MS stop the evil guy who does it with their precious Xbox? ;)
        • by unicron ( 20286 ) <unicron@LIONthcnet.net minus cat> on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:11PM (#4482653) Homepage
          Maybe, but I don't see them going all the way as to more or less threaten the government of an entire country. What will be interesting is if the acquital stands and all companies that see their future in mod chip selling move to Australia. Microsoft would not be happy, to say the least, and we could order them from Australia direct to our doorstep. Which, of course, could lead to the potentially hilariously pathetic situation of Microsoft threatening our government concerning the import of such chips. Australia's one thing, but under no circumstances could Microsoft afford to come through on a threat like that with the USA.
          • by The_Prophetx ( 561044 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:50PM (#4482822)
            "Maybe, but I don't see them going all the way as to more or less threaten the government of an entire country"

            Are you absolutely certain about that? If they're going to go so far as to threaten the government of an entire country (Australia), who's to say they wouldn't have the brass to try it here?

            We've seen Microsoft pretty much ignore and circumvent our Department of Justice, with no real retaliation. We've seen media companies push through legislation that tramps upon the rights of the people just becuase they can. With the way things are going, I would be surprised if Microsoft couldn't get some sort of law passed on the importation of a circumvention device, provided they threw enough lobbyists at it.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2002 @11:35PM (#4483396)
          I would assume they're worried that it will set a precedent for people who sell any kind of mods in Australia.

          It more than sets a precedent, it re-asserts our fair use rights.

          A bit of context would help. The modchips that were allowed on the PS/2 bypass the region restrictions. This allows someone to import a game from the US and play it on an Australian PS/2. Clear and obvious example of fair use. Similarly, under Australian law, it's not legal to sell a zonded DVD player. Or prevent someone using a backup of their game.

          It's not saying that you can sell a modchip to bypass, say, anti-piracy protection. Of course, your anti-piracy protection better not interfere with someone using a backup of a game they legitimately own, or someone can legally install a modchip (which can be legally sold) to bypass it.
      • by NeuroKoan ( 12458 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:18PM (#4482688) Homepage Journal
        I'm not a lawyer, but i'll venture to make a guess as how the logic goes:

        => man makes mod chip for competitor's game unit (person 1)
        => aw crap, someone will make one for my game unit, its just a matter of time (person 2)
        => aw crap, they let the (person 1) off. when (person 2) makes their chip, legal precedent has been set against me.
        => wait, I can use my monolithic strength to try and change the law.
        => (if law passes) sweet. I can now prosecute (person 2) with no precedent to stop me. once I'm in court I can use my high-priced lawyers to fry (person 2)
        => (if law doesn't pass) oh well, I don't want those Austrailians having my xboxes in their continent of corruption anyways. And with no more xboxes in Australia, (person 2) will never get his/her hands on an xbox and thus the mod chip will never be made.

        I'm not saying this is flawless logic, its just probably the logic used to justify the "or else!!!
    • About time! (Score:4, Funny)

      by urbieta ( 212354 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:53PM (#4482835) Homepage Journal
      Its about time Microsoft starts retrieving bad quality products from the market! hehehe

      I just never thought it would start voluntarilly!

      Its a good threat, and Australia is better off not having Xbox, what country would be next?
  • by berchca ( 414155 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:00PM (#4482589) Homepage
    I bet the Australian government loves it when big, US companies try to push them around.
    • by kent_eh ( 543303 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @11:51PM (#4483447)
      I bet the Australian government loves it when big, US companies try to push them around.

      From: Government of Australia
      To: Microsoft, Manager of X-Box products

      Dear sir;

      Get stuffed.

    • Honestly can you really push a country around by saying "do this or we won't sell the XBox there"? If I were in their government and Microsoft told me that I'd laugh.

      Microsoft doesn't sell the XBox there then they don't make any money in Australia from the XBox. Australians are not going to be scarred for life or even hurt in any way by missing out on the XBox.

      The business model is flawed. Microsoft takes a tax on any game sold for the XBox. I am not in favor of that kind of business model. I think it is a danger to free expression and creativity. (I think a similar business model applies to who is allowed to make DVD players.)
  • curious.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jeffy124 ( 453342 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:01PM (#4482594) Homepage Journal
    Nintendo, Sony, and other companies over the years have had to deal with mod chips and people who like to mod their hardware. Last I checked, these companies are not having financial difficulty because of modding.

    What bug is up MS's butt?
  • by Bartab ( 233395 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:01PM (#4482596)
    Buying Laws, Not Just for the US Anymore.
  • Sheesh (Score:5, Informative)

    by Aexia ( 517457 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:02PM (#4482600)
    a man having been acquitted after allegedly selling modified chips that allow an Xbox to play Sony PS2 games.

    Now not even the story submitters are reading the stories!

    following the acquittal in July of a Sydney man alleged to have sold chips that modify a Sony PlayStation 2 to play imported games

    The article is fairly clear what the chip does.
  • by Dthoma ( 593797 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:03PM (#4482604) Journal
    ...couldn't Microsoft just be saying this to try and kick up sales of the Xbox? If the government refuses to change its position, then there'll probably be panic buying of Xboxes before MS withdraws them from Australia.
  • by jedie ( 546466 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:03PM (#4482606) Homepage
    Australia has shown some nice ethics when it comes to laws and legal issues lately.
    I don't think they'd change their law for a GAME console

    Maybe in 20 years from now we'll all need to move to Australia to have some rights

  • Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JohnG ( 93975 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:03PM (#4482610)
    Why should australia care if MS sells the XBox there? Are they in such a horrible financial situation that not having the third place console out of three consoles sales wise would hurt them that much? Or do people over there just play THAT many games? Sheesh, talk about ego on the part of Microsoft.
    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cheezedawg ( 413482 )
      All Microsoft is saying is that if it isn't profitable to sell XBoxes in Australia, then they won't sell XBoxes in Australia. Its not a threat to the Australian government- its the reality of business.
  • I wonder... (Score:4, Funny)

    by darkov ( 261309 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:05PM (#4482619)
    ...can we convince this man to sell mod chips for Windows, Office, Passport...
  • ARTICLE IS WRONG (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:06PM (#4482632)
    As an early post said the article is wrong. The guy was selling mod chips for the PS/2. He had nothing to do with the Xbox.

    So what Ballmer- go pack up your Xbox and leave- and take all that lost revenue with you. The Xbox has had an unspectacular launch in Australia with retailers even refusing to carry the stock because Microsoft was screwing them on the margins (e.g. Harvey Norman).

  • Seven Sold (Score:5, Funny)

    by bstadil ( 7110 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:06PM (#4482633) Homepage
    I wonder if the 7 people in Australia that have bought an Xbox so far will have to return them?

    I believe six of then are called Bruce [graphicszone.net]

  • by edrugtrader ( 442064 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:06PM (#4482634) Homepage
    they are $199... just ignore that PS2 logo on the side of the box, its the only box i had left. OH, and you'll need these 'special' xbox controllers. (the ps2 logos on those were misprints from the xbox factory, don't worry).

    here is now it work, plug in your xbox, now plug in this 'mod chip' to the same power strip, and they will communicate using WiFi... put your PS2 games, in the 'mod chip' after plugging it in, and plug the 'mod controllers' into the 'mod chip' everything should work fine out of the box.


    i take orders at my website below -|
  • by silvaran ( 214334 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:07PM (#4482637)
    After the launch of a Telstra mobile computing device, Mr Ballmer said the decision affected Xbox's business model, which relies on subsidising the hardware console in return for a royalty on every game sold.

    The criminal law related to murder is bad for my business model as a hit man, which relies on accepting payment for people I have killed.
  • So what?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:14PM (#4482671)
    Now this is ridiculous! It's like the a barbeque manufacturer saying, "Change the recipe for your beer or we won't sell barbeques in Australia!" Who cares?!?!?! Honestly, why should any Australian official give a damn about whether a TOY is being sold in his country or not? There is PLENTY of room for competition. If Microsoft isn't selling there, so what?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:16PM (#4482679)
    Microsoft's reasoning: Hmmmm, if we threaten to stop selling the XBox in Australia, then Slashdot will pick up the story. Lots of open source developers read slashdot. Whenever slashdot posts an article about Microsoft, open source developers immediately stop working and start posting their "Microsoft sucks because ..." comments, thereby hurting their productivity. Anything Microsoft can do to hurt the productivity of open source developers is good for Microsoft.
  • by Newer Guy ( 520108 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:18PM (#4482682)
    Uhm Stevie baby, I hate to burst your lil' ol' bubble..but once I buy a X BOX, it's MINE TO DO WITH what I WANT! If I want to mod it, that's my business... If I want to slam it with a sledge hammer into smithereens, that's my business too! I'm sorry that you based your business model on an assumption that might not be true..but the Austrailan or any other government doesn't exist to insure your financial success.. In other words, Stevie, try this low tech game.. handing you a bucket of sand and a hammer POUND SAND!!!!
    • by LoveShack ( 190582 ) <jamesNO@SPAMjameswilliams.me> on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:51PM (#4482829)
      Wow. Australia sounds like a place. Here, in America, we've got this DMCA stuff...I "buy" a CD, but am told in what devices I can play it. I'm told what I can/can't do with the information on "my" CD. I buy my computer, but I can't do everything I want with it, such as decrypting "my" DVDs and storing them on "my" harddrive in a more-convenient-to-watch form. And just wait for Palladium! Right now, I'm just not "allowed" to do these things. Palladium will force me to stick to the law. :) Won't that be nice? Ignore me. I'm just bitter that people keep telling me what to do with the stuff I pay for.
  • by Arcturax ( 454188 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:21PM (#4482702)
    To forbid the sale of anything Microsoft owns. Or at least make it look like they are going to. I bet Microsoft will be the one backpeddling then!
  • Yeah Right (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Texas_Refugee ( 258092 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:21PM (#4482705)
    They are going to "reconsider" selling the xbox? They need every possible market to sell this money-loser. It would be stupid to lock out a whole market of potential buyers. Are they going to sit back and let Sony and Nintendo take over? If this were true, Sony would want to lose this modchip case, it would end up helping them in the end.

    I just don't buy it.

    This is a prime example of when someone should call Microsoft's bluff.
    • Re:Yeah Right (Score:3, Insightful)

      by elite lamer ( 533654 )
      Did you take into consideration the fact that Microsoft loses money on every Xbox, trying to regain it with software sales? If they stop selling Xbox's in Australia, then they won't have to produce as many, and therefore not lose money on Xbox's there. The smart move for Microsoft would be to stop selling Xbox's in Australia, but keep selling Xbox software there.
  • by serutan ( 259622 ) <(moc.nozakeeg) (ta) (guodpoons)> on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:22PM (#4482710) Homepage
    Any law changes they make should be set to expire in a year, when Microsoft will have discontinued the X-Box and they'll be $49.95 at Toys-R-Us. I wonder if I will be able to interface my IntelPlay(R) Microscope to an X-Box?
  • is it legal? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by u19925 ( 613350 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:22PM (#4482711)
    Wouldn't it be illegal to enforce customers to buy only MS approved games? It is like Canon telling customer that it is illegal to buy Sigma lens since Sigma doesn't pay royalty. If Sony PS/2 modchip maker was convicted, I believe next Canon would sue some maker of adapter which allows different mount lens on their EOS cameras. How are these two equations different?

    PS/2 + modchip = CanPlayThirdPartyGames

    Canon + adapter = CanUseThirdPartyLenses

  • Could this be that a country has recognized that a PS2 or an Xbox or other high-tech toy is really not any different from a toaster? Sunbeam has no say over what we do with a toaster after we buy it. If we choose to turn a toaster into a robot, or modify it into a rotisserie oven, that's our right. We can modify it in any way we choose to. If I were to offer a modkit to turn a toaster into a rotisserie oven, that is my right, but more importantly, that is the right the consumer has under common law. Current IP laws are in direct conflict with this, how it ends is any ones guess, but it is an interesting fight.
  • Screw 'em (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:26PM (#4482723)

    Do the words "significant non-infringing use" mean anything to these people? It's their own fault really. If companies would drop this price-fix^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hregion-coding nonsense so that the only real use of modchips was to play copied games, I might have a tiny bit of sympathy for them, but not as long as they keep sneaking in these extra restrictions that have nothing to do with copyright. Don't let the door hit yer ass on the way out, MS.

  • Decision in the case (Score:5, Informative)

    by ghostrider_one ( 182445 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:29PM (#4482735)
    The decision in the case (Kabushiki Kaisha Sony Computer Entertainment v Stevens [2002] FCA 906) is available here [austlii.edu.au]

    This was the first attempted prosecution in Australia under the changes introduced in the Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Act 2000 [law.gov.au], and Sony has vowed to appeal the above adverse decision to the full bench of the Federal Court.
  • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:31PM (#4482746) Journal
    "Change the law or no native australian Xboxes"... thats what it sounded like. Everyone will import them from US or Japan, and play games on them, with the modchips that let them do so.

    Someone at Microsoft didn't think this one through. Austrailia appears to be well on the ball regarding the rights of its citizens to access content they've purchased. The ACCC (http://www.accc.gov.au/) routinely stands against region restrictions in various forms, whether its games or dvds.

    Will they budge? Who knows. This is all saber rattling on Microsoft's part, since whether or not they cut XBox sales in Australia, they'll still get the (well, negative amounts of) money when consumers start importing.
  • by IIRCAFAIKIANAL ( 572786 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:33PM (#4482757) Journal
    I just saw the last shred of journalistic integrity go down the fucking drain here! XBox mod chip to play PS2 games my ass!

    Why not just let the trolls post stories about free RAM with links to goatse.cx?

    Slashdot Reader: Oh wow, free ram OH MY GOD THAT IS SO SICK MY EYES MY EYES THEY BURN ARrrrrr....

    Damn it.
  • by beej ( 82035 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:41PM (#4482791) Homepage Journal
    There's no way MS is going to pull XBox from Australia. Here's what they want in priority order:

    1. XBoxen sold in Australia, and possession of mod chips is illegal.
    2. XBoxen sold in Australia, and possession of mod chips is not illegal.
    3. XBoxen not sold in Australia.

    MS is probably willing to go to great lengths to keep the XBox market alive. They just reported huge earnings and have something like $30B cash so they can comfortably lose money on the XBox for years until they gain market share. For them to give up just because something didn't make economic sense right now wouldn't be like Microsoft. Look at their history, for crying out loud.

    And if they do pull out just to spite you, well, no big loss. PS3 will probably be out before you could change your laws anyway.

  • by broken_bones ( 307900 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:41PM (#4482792)
    From the article quoting Steve Balmer:

    "If there are aspects that are not allowed, it would encourage us to require a change in the legal framework. Otherwise, it wouldn't make economic sense."

    If the legal frame work of a given locality doesn't support your business model, don't use it. In the past few years we've all seen a bunch of crazy business models crash at full speed into the solid wall of reality. What Balmer is proposing here makes even the worst dot-bomb plan look sterling. Even groups like the RIAA and the MPAA can claim that "times and technology have changed" when they go to try to change laws. In this case MS is the newcomer to an existing markeplace that has had to deal with the problem of mod chips for quite some time. I suppose that this just shows that you don't have to smart to help run a multi-gajillion dollar company.

    Hopefully the "change the law" business model doesn't become as popular as the "put it online and they will buy it" model was. If this takes off one can just imagine the headlines: "Company fails to buy law, declares bankruptcy." If that wouldn't be grounds for a mismanagement suit on the part of investors, I don't know what would be.
  • Mandatory Princess Bride quote...

    ... And Australia, as everyone knows, is peopled with criminals and criminals are used to having people not trust them...."

    BTW: There really is a print version of "The Princess Bride", in an abridged version by William Goldman, (Because the original by the esteemed S. Morgenstern is much too long and horrible to read.)

  • by seven89 ( 303868 ) <rc.m3peeps@org> on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:56PM (#4482847) Homepage

    Great PR move! Multi-billion dollar American company issuing threats against a soverign nation. I'm sure that having their legislature kow-tow to arrogant foreigners will go over really well with Australian voters. Ballmer needs a clue. Threats are GWB's job. Steve is just a song and dance guy.

  • by darkov ( 261309 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @08:58PM (#4482855)
    In Oz, it's essentially illegal to enforce region coding, which this stoush seems to be about. It's considered anti-competitive. Similarly, a company cannot stop a product from being imported into the country, even if it already sold there (no anti-grey marketting laws). So basically you could still get your xboxen if you really wanted to and MS can do fuck all about it.

    It's interesting to note that Visa and Mastercard are thretening similar action if the Reserve bank doesn't back down on some reforms.

    One day, when we get rid of all the evil corporates, Australia will be the perfect place to live.
    • by wiresquire ( 457486 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @12:15AM (#4483502) Journal
      Just to expand on this a little...

      The reason that regional encoding in general is viewed so dimly in Australia is simply because as a small market, Australia frequently gets hammered on prices relative to the rest of the world.

      So, regional encoding looks like it's really set up to be price gouging to Australians.

      There's been several investigations into, eg why CDs cost so much more in Australia than in other countries, or at least used to, before the exchange rate bombed.

      Of course, this is the great thing about the internet. You can find the price of anything in nearly any market.

      Frequently governments find this troubling, because it means they are missing out on sales tax, duties etc.

      For corporations, I've heard of situations where they simply go and set up a subsidiary in the country which offers the cheapest relative price and do a corporate wide deal.

      Consumers don't have that luxury, but Oz seems to have some resistance built up re this nonsensical price fixing by global corporations.
  • by AtariDatacenter ( 31657 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @09:13PM (#4482898)
    I really don't think they're going to ban the X-Box in Australia. (Just like they're not going to ban Windows in China, which is reported to have a very high piracy rate.) They're just fluffing hot air to manipulate opinion.

    On the other hand, maybe some of these 'Microsoft sanctions' we've heard about would result in a laughable embargo against Australia. Gooooo Balmer!
  • by xarium ( 608956 ) <xarium@NospAm.gmail.com> on Friday October 18, 2002 @09:31PM (#4482956) Homepage
    It's no surprise to me that Microsoft is becoming more and more aggressive with it's dealings in Australia. They just recently lost their single biggest customer (Telstra). That deal is not finalised and it will be at least a couple of years before it has true impact, but the tide is turning here... against Microsoft.

    The legal precedent in question took the nature: "If I buy a car, am I allowed to re-fit the engine?" The law granted that unless Sony gave a lifetime guarantee they had no further right to any single PS2 once it was legitimately sold to a consumer. The consumer had full rights to do whatever they wanted to that one instance of hardware because it is their property.

    Personally, I back the argument in question and say that Microsoft should get a new business model (or make good on their threat and stop selling their shite here).
  • by bizitch ( 546406 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @09:59PM (#4483046) Homepage
    Nobody is claiming the intellectual property rights on behaving like a 3 year old ...

  • by Mithrandir ( 3459 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:07PM (#4483078) Homepage
    IN oz, the mod chips aren't defined as an illegal device. They aren't legal either, but there is no law saying you cannot do it. For DVD players, stores openly advertise region-free devices or mod chips to make them region free.

    Also, there are a number of other laws that contribute to this - reverse engineering is a legal right, so someone can build mod chips in Oz (where do you think the majority of Samba core developers are?). In addition, our local consumer & competition board are investigating the whole region locking thing. From the various news reports going around, it seems like they are about to make region locking illegal because it is classed as anti-competitive. If that does happen (probably >80% chance given previous actions of Prof Fels) then mod chips will most definitely be legal in Oz.

  • PS2 on XBox (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cosyne ( 324176 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:27PM (#4483162) Homepage
    I've seen a few outraged posts about the ps2 on xbox error in the writeup. Out of curosity, if you chipped your xbox, would you be able to run a playstation emulator [ngemu.com] under xbox linux [sourceforge.net]?
    Maybe msft should rent xboxes if they really don't want people dicking with them. Or they could just pour each one full of epoxy, so it's just one solid brick ;-)
  • Australia (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:52PM (#4483240)
    Couple of items.

    1) Now is a really, really bad time to be telling us what to do about our own laws. We are in a state of mourning over the Bali Terrorist attack. A foreign company telling us to change our laws will go down like a lead ballon. The desires of a company to sell products is right at the bottom of important things list.

    2) The regional encoding is likely to illegal under the Trade Practices Act (similar to the US Anti-Trust law by wider ranging). Currrently the ACCC (the statutory authority assigned to oversea compliance with the TPA) is taking DVD producers to court over this very issue. If the ACCC wins then regional encoding of games will also be illegal.
  • by supun ( 613105 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:52PM (#4483241)
    Microsoft is threatening to not sell the XBox in Australia due to a guy being acquitted for making mod chips. Now just above Australia, is China. Wasn't there some crazy stat that 78% (2000) of the software in China is pirated and Microsoft is still selling there? If I was a Microsoft share holder I would be concern on the focus of Microsoft. I think less XBox mods are going to sell compared to copies of Office or XP.
  • by intermodal ( 534361 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @10:55PM (#4483247) Homepage Journal
    Now we'll have the australian hackers back working on Linux for PCs again instead! Woohoo!
    • by thogard ( 43403 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @12:37AM (#4483552) Homepage
      There are more open source programmers in Oz per capita than in the US. There are also more xbox game developers per capita than in the US too. I wonder if they will still write games for an Xbox when they can't get them.

      Remember that Aussie laws allowed the realese of ssleay and Samba. Writing ssleay as open source in the US was illegal at the time it was written. Its wide distribution was one of the key factors in getting the US crypto export laws fixed since congress was concerned about the US not keeping its crypto edge over the rest of the world.

      However I think the goverment woudl cave in if MS started pushing them around.
  • Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zod1025 ( 189215 ) <zod@NoSpAM.modernwizardry.org> on Friday October 18, 2002 @11:16PM (#4483328) Homepage
    Sorry for the late post, but I just saw this article and I have to wonder if it isn't a bunch of crap on Microsoft's part. Let's say Australia calls the bluff, and doesn't do a thing. Is Microsoft seriously NOT going to sell Xbox in that market? And miss out on the chance to purchase that much more mindshare? Please. It would just be a bigger incentive for the modchip makers.

    Microsoft is just full of itself, and trying to spread FUD like usual.
  • by Espectr0 ( 577637 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @11:25PM (#4483362) Journal
    Ms is just looking for any excuse to stop selling the xbos these days huh?
  • by debest ( 471937 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @11:49PM (#4483441)

    Razor companies sell the handle as a loss-leader, making up huge profits on the blades. Sure, some third-party blades that fit the handle come out that are cheaper, and the original company complains somewhat, but the vast majority continue to buy the "genuine article", and life goes on.

    Ink jet printer manufacturers probably don't make a dime on the printers themselves: the profit is in the ink carts. Yes, some people buy refill kits, but still the vast majority buy the real replacement cartridges. Token complaining aside, the printer maker is happy.

    The same is true, I'm certain, with the X-Box. There aren't that many modded systems out there to make more than the tiniest dent in actual sales of X-Box games. In a sane political environment, Microsoft would whine a bit but really, there would be nothing they could do, as the console belongs to the citizen and it should be none of Microsoft's business what anyone does with it.

    Microsoft, however, has the advantage of being on the "right" side of the WIPO treaties which forbid all this "digital theft", and effectively remove a person's right to do what he/she wants with their own property. The USA was a "leader" in this: by passing the DMCA in 1998, they were easily the first Western nation to ratify this crap into what is now international law.

    Most countries that signed onto the agreement haven't yet ratified it, but most are getting close to doing so.

    Seems the Australian court system wasn't told how to rule properly on this issue. Ballmer thinks that a nudge may be required to make sure Australia is in line. Must be nice to have that kind of influence.
    • by ninewands ( 105734 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @12:59AM (#4483592)
      Quoth the poster:
      There aren't that many modded systems out there to make more than the tiniest dent in actual sales of X-Box games.

      What you fail to understand is that the central principle of Microsoft's overall business model is "ALL your dollar(yen, franc, mark, yuan, drachma) are belong to us. (And you will give them to us whether you want to or not)"

      The poster continueth:
      Microsoft, however, has the advantage of being on the "right" side of the WIPO treaties which forbid all this "digital theft", and effectively remove a person's right to do what he/she wants with their own property.

      Please explain to me just where considerations of "digital theft" come into a transaction where a company has set a price for a tangible good and I have paid that price and taken delivery of the good. The good (which, legally, is chattel property) is now MY property. The seller no longer OWNS any rights in the property, and therefore, has no right to prohibit me from doing ANYTHING I want to do to it.

      To make that point even MORE strongly, as long as my use of the good does not violate other laws (e.g., copyright infringement, in the case of bootleg games) NOBODY ANYWHERE has ANY right to prohibit any modification I choose to make to the good. It is MY property and I have an absolute right of dominion over it. If I want to mod-chip and X-Box and install Linux on it NONE of my use of the hardware that I have PAID for infringes anybody's rights. The only thing infringed is Microsoft's EXPECTATION of making a profit on follow-on game sales.

      Too bad.

      If Microsoft wants to impose this degree of control over what their customers make of the XBox , they need to try LEASING XBoxen instead of selling them (Want to guess what THAT decision would do to their market share?). Either that or they can raise the price so that game sales no longer subsidized their losses on the hardware (Want to guess what THAT decision would do to their market share?).

      Microsoft has (so far) done a damned good job of designing high-end hardware components (their mice, keyboards and (the older models of their) joysticks are some of the finest products I have used (although, IMHO, the "Natural Keyboard" is an atrocity).

      Personally, I think the XBox was the tiger that Microsoft tried to ride and couldn't get off of. They poured a couple of billion into developing a product that they couldn't sell at a profit in a market where they were faced with 2 dominant competitiors. They are now scrambling to come up with SOME way to make money on this turkey and not doing too damned well at finding one. They are too accustomed to making a roaring success of everything they try by virtue of their dominant position in MOST markets where they compete.

      Too bad. Bill & Steve, maybe it's time to cut your losses and tell the shareholders "We made a mistake."
  • by PotatoHead ( 12771 ) <doug&opengeek,org> on Saturday October 19, 2002 @12:47AM (#4483564) Homepage Journal
    Lets just take this apart a little to see the stench inside shall we?

    From the article:

    Microsoft would be forced to reconsider selling the Xbox video game system in Australia

    Now the spin:

    Take the word 'forced', for example. Why exactly is that word in there? Who is forcing them? Is the force economic or social or some other force? Have they been given some sort of order that they must follow? How exactly does one force a large company like microsoft to do anything?
    What they are saying is that they are forced to decide. Forced really adds little here because it is the deciding that actually matters and that is why decide is clearly the right word choice here, not forced. Indeed.

    More from the article:

    , or seek changes to the law, following the acquittal in July of a Sydney man

    And the spin

    Now they take that little bit of momentum gained from the poor use of 'forced' above and add to it. Here they polarize the issue. When one polarizes an issue, they generally have one good choice, which is the one they want you to identify with, and that other bad choice. Simple isn't it. Just change the law and things will be good because things can either be good or bad, and none of us wants bad so lets work together for good huh? Sounds reasonable doesn't it?

    It's not. They limit all the avaliable choices to exactly two. The one they want, and the one that nobody wants. Realistically there are many other options avaliable to them, but that complicates things just a little. Can't have that when you are trying to sway public opinion about complicated things. Keep it simple, that way it's easier for everyone to see your point.

    More from the article:

    alleged to have sold chips that modify a Sony PlayStation 2 to play imported games

    And the spin:

    Alleged? Where do we normally hear that word? We hear that word when we refer to someone who we think committed a crime. This is a negative word, not a positive one... ever. Can you remember the last time you heard the word 'alleged' in connection with something good? I can't.

    Now that's a pretty decent piece of spin because of what comes next. What is that you ask? The actual crime! In this case it happens to be selling chips that allow people to play imported games. There is so much wrong with this I almost don't know where to start.

    Playing import games is legal for one. implying that this is a crime is clearly a deception no doubt about it. None. A simple thought exercise cuts right through that one. Here is mine:

    You are in Japan playing a game you find interesting. You buy it, legally mind you, and bring it home. It does not work. You are frustrated to learn that the company who was happy to sell you the game is also responsible for the fact that you cannot use it at home. What to do? Return it? Wrong answer, you see you opened it when you tried to play your legally purchased game so thats out. IMport an entire console? Too expensive, besides you have one already and are trying to be a loyal customer, but too much is too much. What's left? Several things, but the most obvious is a mod chip. Simple easy and legal.

    So this linking of crime and mod chips and import games sounds a lot like drugs. Shady people sell you some thing that is in poor taste. Playing import games is in poor taste, who does that? It all adds up to making the whole thing look bad. Which it clearly is not.

    From the Article:

    , Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said yesterday.

    And the spin:

    None of this would be worth discussing if it came from a nobody, but it came from a chief executive. Now that's somebody. Not only a chief executive, but one that runs one of the largest companies in the world. Maybe we all better think this one over because a guy like this would not just bring this up over nothing would he?

    The very title conveys a certain level of creedence to this whole thing, but for a minor point. The company he runs is in the middle of the largest anti-trust litigation known. Doesn't this put just a little different light on things?

    From the article:

    Mr Ballmer said the decision affected Xbox's business model, which relies on subsidising the hardware console in return for a royalty on every game sold.

    Now the spin:

    This actually is a true statement with regard to the business model. They need to sell games, or take a loss on each console. Saying the legal decision affected that business model though is clearly false. Someone who buys an xbox who also imports a game paid for both. How does this break the model? Games are sold as are consoles. Clearly this is worded to imply that the alleged selling of chips will affect Microsofts ability to make money.

    Now the truth here is, mod chips can do this, if they allow users to run other things, but in this case, the users are running the things they are supposed to be able to run anyway; namely, import games. So, Microsoft does not like mod chips because there is a possibility that they could be used in ways that could harm their business model, but they can't say that so they imply it.
    From the article:

    Microsoft has slashed the retail price of an Xbox from $649 to $399, which resulted in increased hardware sales and more game software sold.

    And the spin:

    This is a fact. They have lowered their price to compete with SONY. According to them it is working, and it likely is, but this is something they choose to do. Having it mentioned here just adds to the negative connotation alrealy implied with the 'alleged' crime discussed earlier. Another point worth mention here is that SONY has been dealing with this the entire time and seems to make lots of money. Why can't Microsoft?

    They have no real basis for a statement against another nations legal system just because they have to keep their price low in order to boost sales of their product. This is a pretty arrogant stand to take --if you look though the spin.

    From the article:

    But Sony, which saw sales of PlayStation 2 titles decline 19 per cent in the same period, still dominates, selling 28 per cent of all titles, against Xbox's 7 per cent.

    And the spin:

    This paints the picture of the perfect underdog. Everyone wants an xbox don't they? If these criminals are allowed to sell mod chips then some people just might not get one. They might have to settle for a SONY instead. You can carry that little piece farther if you want, it's easy.

    From the article:

    "Given the way the economic model works

    And spin:

    Note the use of the word 'the'. This is clever because it implies that there is only one economic model. What they should say here is, "Given the way our economic model works". Again subtle word use to shift blame from them to another entity; namely, the Australian legal system.

    From the article:

    , and that is a subsidy followed, essentially, by fees for every piece of software sold, our licence framework has to do that

    And spin:

    This is a complex way of saying we need some money for every game sold. Fair enough, but the alleged crime mentioned above does nothing to hinder that, so why bother with this whole affair in the first place. Is there something we are not seeing? If so, why hide it. Everyone would be a lot better off knowing what is is.

    From the article:

    "If there are aspects that are not allowed, it would encourage us to require a change in the legal framework. Otherwise, it wouldn't make economic sense."

    And spin:

    Basically they are saying here, if they cannot do what they want, then they don't want to do it at all. Sounds like the reasoning of a three year old plain and simple.

    Essentially what is happening here is this.

    Microsoft is saying that they want income from every xbox both from the sale of the actual box, and the games following that.

    They say that a chip intended for users to play imported games hinders that in some fashion, but decline to discuss exactly what that is exactly.

    So they basically throw down their gauntlet and say, either play the way we want, or we won't play at all.

    What exactly is anyone supposed to realistically think about this? Should we support a change to another nations legal system because they tell us that the law there might hinder them from making the amount of money they want to make, or that the think they should be making with nothing but implications to that end?

    Spin Indeed.
  • Hollow threat. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Performer Guy ( 69820 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @06:34AM (#4484172)
    This is cutting off their nose to spite their face. "Our business will be damaged by mod chips therefore we're going to destroy our business first.", has to be the most hollow threat ever.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain