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<nettime> Mystery Man Revealed in Microsoft Xbox Hack Contest
Rachel Greene on Sat, 4 Jan 2003 14:17:04 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Mystery Man Revealed in Microsoft Xbox Hack Contest

Mystery Man Revealed in Microsoft Xbox Hack Contest

By Bernhard Warner, European Internet Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) - A longtime Microsoft Corp opponent has emerged as the
mystery backer and mastermind behind a contest that offers $200,000 to
anyone who successfully hacks into the software giant's Xbox (news - web
sites) video game console, a top technology news Web Site reported.

Michael Robertson, a former dot-com entrepreneur and now chief executive of
U.S. software company Lindows.com, revealed himself as the anonymous donor
and contest's creator in an interview on Thursday with CNET News.com.

His identity was first revealed on SourceForge, a site where developers
congregate to share tips on developing so-called open-source software

A Microsoft spokeswoman in London declined to comment on Robertson's bounty.
No one could be immediately reached at Lindows.com's offices in San Diego,

Last July, Robertson anonymously dangled the prize money to any programmers
who could successfully hack into the Xbox and adapt it so that it would run
on the Linux (news - web sites) operating system, an emerging competitor to
Microsoft's Windows operating system.

Robertson recently extended the deadline as no group has fully mastered the

The hack contest goes beyond a sporty challenge.

Linux proponents have long charged that its freely distributed operating
system, designed and modified by mainly unaffiliated groups of programming
enthusiasts, is an important step for the future development of computing

They argue that the market dominance of Windows, which is the operating
system on more than 90 percent of all PCs, gives Microsoft and a small
number of its business partners unfair and anti-competitive control in the
design of the growing number of devices that come equipped with computing

Robertson's firm Lindows.com is a start-up that aims to promote the use of
the Linux open-source operating language in computer systems, a move that
would challenge Microsoft's dominant Windows operating system.

The two firms are embattled in a lawsuit in Federal District Court in
Seattle as Lindows.com is trying to get the Microsoft trademark on Windows
invalidated. Microsoft has accused the like-sounding competitor of trademark

It is unclear whether Microsoft will resort to legal action to fight off
hacker assaults on its X-Box.

Recently, U.S. companies have used the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, a
U.S. law, to defend their software and technology products from hackers, a
move that has met with mixed results in the courts.


"There is no business justification; that's not why I did it," Robertson
told News.com of his rationale behind the contest. "I did it because I
thought people should have the choice to run the software they want on the
hardware of their choice."

Robertson said that Xbox is designed much like a PC with a closed operating
system run on Intel microprocessors. He argues that as it has done with PCs,
Microsoft is trying to make its software the defacto operating system in
gaming consoles. 

"I think Xbox sets a dangerous precedent," he told CNET News.com.

The Robertson revelation generated mixed impressions among SourceForge
users. While some used the SourceForge message boards to cheer Robertson's
push to take on Microsoft, others saw it as a half-hearted publicity stunt
that would fail to result in a successful adaptation of the console.

"Not much to see here but a promised roadkill," one posting read.

Xbox, which made its debut in the U.S. in 2001 and in Europe last March,
trails the market-dominant Sony PlayStation 2 game console. 

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