Resistance: Fall of Microsoft

Let‘s be clear about what is really at stake in this “console war“ between Sony and Microsoft. People don‘t realize that they do not own their Xbox 360 any more than they own the set top box from their cable company. They rent it.You have an internet connection on Microsoft‘s console, but the only place you can go is Xbox live. The hard drive installed in the Xbox 360 has a proprietary connection to the rest of the system, so it cannot be accessed without using computer code owned by Microsoft. Microsoft has total control over what you see and what you download, as well as what games you can purchase.

Microsoft released the first Xbox after the PS2, then rolled out the Xbox 360 before the Playstation 3. There are still high quality games being made for the PS2 like God of War II and Final Fantasy XII, while the Xbox is basically a dead system. Microsoft ripped off their own customers who bought their original console, then dissed Xbox 360 buyers by selling them a poorly designed system.

To make the Xbox 360 so powerful, Microsoft designed a triple core PowerPC chip and a massive graphics processor for their console. These chips require a lot of power and generate immense heat, so much heat that the Xbox 360 sounds like a hair dryer because of the fans inside the case. When the first Xbox 360s came out, many of them overheated and crashed.

There were reports of failure rates as high as 20% on the first consoles, although Microsoft insists the rate was no more than 5%. This despite the fact that a Google search containing the words “xbox red ring” reveals a cottage industry of websites catering to customers whose consoles have failed. One man in Chicago had the temerity to sue the Software Giant, that case was settled out of court, allegedly for an undisclosed sum…

All the photos of the Xbox 360 that you see in advertisements do not include the huge power brick that steps up voltage from a wall socket to the console. Of course, they could have avoided the problem of overheating and requiring an external power brick by simply making the case bigger. This would haves allowed for more air around the circuitry and provided room for an internal power supply.

Notice how the case of the Xbox 360 slopes inward allowing as little space as possible between the hardware and the case. This makes it nearly impossible to install a “mod chip” in the Xbox 360, but it also makes the console nearly impossible to cool properly. Again, people don’t own their Xbox 360s, they rent them, and no modifications to the console will be tolerated.

On October 31st, 2006, Microsoft installed a “Fall Update” through Xbox Live that contained faulty code that disabled an unknown number of Xbox 360s. Thousands of consoles were “bricked“ by the Fall update, and internet rumor has it that this was a deliberate tactic to disable modified consoles. Microsoft is again being sued by an Xbox 360 owner whose machine was disabled, that case is still pending.

All the bad press about Sony’s launch of the PS3 is nothing in comparison to Microsoft’s sleazy tactics. Microsoft ripped off their own customers when the withdrew support for the original Xbox. Then they marketed and sold the over-powered, poorly ventilated Xbox 360 without proper testing, just to ensure that they got the drop on Sony.

Now contrast Microsoft‘s console launch with the debut of the Playstation 3. The biggest initial complaint against the PS3 was its unprecedented cost, $600 for the premium model. Of course press reports seldom mention that the console costs Sony over $800 to manufacture. That’s because the CELL processor is expensive and the Blu-Ray disc drive is even more expensive.

There was an initial shortages of PS3s because the blue diode that powers the blue laser in the disc player is very sophisticated and hard to produce. Sony invested in more manufacturing capacity and airlifted PS3s to market in order to meet demand, and those shortages were soon overcome. Sony could do this because they actually make their own product.

Anyone who takes an unbiased look at the PS3 must admit that the console is an excellent machine. There were reports that Sony was using low quality components to reduce costs. But repeated analyses of disassembled PS3s have shown that the design and parts, including the Blu-Ray disc player, are of very high quality.

The Playstation 3 has more computing and graphics power than the Xbox 360, but customers who buy the PS3 are getting much more than a superior game console. A Wi-Fi internet connection is included on the deluxe version, and all models have a standard hard drive. This means that customers who buy a PS3 actually own their consoles.

In addition to accessing the internet and downloading files in any format, the PS3 even allows customers to choose their operating system. Linux is an open source OS with a growing fan base and increasing developer support. Several versions of Linux are now available on the PS3, some of which are free.

Sony is a world class electronics manufacturing company. They have given us the Walkman, the floppy disc, the CD and DVD, as well as the PlayStation game consoles. And to get where they are Sony had to compete against world class Corporations like Sega, Nintendo, and Toshiba.

Microsoft is a bunch of evil nerds who lucked into owning the instruction set for the PC, then hired a bunch of lawyers to enforce that monopoly. Microsoft is worth more than Ford Motor Company, Boeing, or Sony. And they‘ve done this without manufacturing anything, or competing fairly against any other company.

Apple Computer created the Graphical User Interface for the Mac, yet it took Microsoft years just to copy Apple’s innovation and deliver Windows with a GUI. Then came the web browser wars. And remember, Microsoft didn’t create a web browser until Netscape’s Navigator was already installed on millions of computers.

Now its the console wars, and once again, Microsoft did not invent the game console.

Microsoft owns Windows and the new Vista Operating System, proprietary code that runs 90% of the world’s Personal Computers. They own Direct X, the API that controls graphics on those PCs. Direct X is also the exclusive graphics software for the Xbox 360.

That means all PC games coded in Direct X can easily be ported to the Xbox 360, but not other platforms. In PC gaming, there was an open graphics standard called Open GL, that was championed by Apple, and numerous other Non Microsoft computer companies. Every time Microsoft updated Windows or Direct X, they attempted to stifle Open GL.

The Open GL standard is now represented by the Khronos Group, of which Sony is a member. Software written in Open GL will run on all platforms, whereas Direct X games only run on Windows and the Xbox 360. Since Microsoft controls the Windows monopoly, they can spend billions to subsidize the Xbox 360, and extend the Direct X API.

That’s really what this console war is all about. If Sony’s PlayStation 3 wins, or at least remains a viable competitor to the Xbox 360, then open standards and open systems will gain market share. If Microsoft wins, they will extend their computing monopoly to the console industry.

A. Scott Piraino

Published in: on June 4, 2007 at 6:11 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Hey, that’s the greatest! So with ll this brain power AWHFY? Come on

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