A lot of interesting data came out of Ars Technica's interview with Matt Lee, a Microsoft software developer in the Xbox division. The nicething about Matt Lee was that when the interview was over, he answered some questions in the discussion. A lot of it was clarifying points he made in the main article, but then he shared this story with us.
…allow me to share a related story. A little over a year ago, one of the people in my group modded an Xbox, installed Avalaunch, and put all sorts of Xbox mod scene apps on the box, like XBMC, RSS readers, etc, along with some "backup" games.:rolleyes: He brought this box along to a meeting with Bill Gates. Bill saw a demo of this, was quite impressed, and asked something along the lines of "How can we engage this community?" – instead of saying something like "How can we squash this?" It's long been on the back of everyone's minds in the Xbox group – how can we get students and hobbyists involved without disrupting the console business model? The good news is that it's still on the radar, we'll see what happens in the future.
This was the response to a question about simpler development tools for the 360 being released, and it's an interesting picture. If you've ever seen a modded Xbox, you know that the feature-set and usability is better in many ways than even then newest version of Live for the 360. It's easier to share files, use the system as a media box, and of course backup games. While mods have a bad reputation, the vast majority of people I know with modded Xboxes use them as a cheap and powerful HTPC—not as a way to pirate games. It's revealing that Bill Gates was interested in what the modders were doing to improve the system, and hopefully this points to a more open dialogue between the end users, modders, and the software developers working with the consoles.
I'm still waiting for a simple way of linking the 360 up to my network to share movie files, and I certainly don't want to shell out for Windows XP Media Center Edition to do it. As long as modders come up with better solutions than the official ones, the market for mod chips and homebrew software will continue to thrive.