Does Kinect for Windows warrant a new hacker bounty?

Microsoft says it is pursuing a hardware-only approach for the Kinect platform. But some open-source advocates are wondering if the new system will reject open-source Kinect drivers.

The Kinect for Windows retail box, as seen on
Adafruit Industries

When Microsoft's mega-hit Kinect motion controller for the Xbox was released in 2010, its closed nature inspired a hefty bounty to hack it and come up with open-source drivers.

But now that Microsoft has released an official version of Kinect for Windows, the team that offered that payout is wondering whether they might have to do it again.

Microsoft eventually realized that there was an insatiable thirst for developing open-source Kinect projects and released a software development kit of its own. But now the folks at open-source hardware purveyors Adafruit are wondering if the new Kinect for Windows platform will reject any projects made using open tools.

"There was a time when Microsoft would not even consider a Kinect for Windows, but the open-source community created so many amazing projects (and products) a new effort was started to Window-ize and SDK-ize the Kinect to be part of all of this. And now Microsoft is selling the Kinect for Windows," wrote Adafruit this evening.

But the box for the new Kinect for Windows product, which Microsoft announced during CES today, may indicate that open source is no longer welcome. At least that's what Adafruit worries.

It's $249. On the box is says "FOR COMMERCIAL USE." And also says "Kinect for Windows Commercial Software Development Kit (SDK)." That seems to include the commercial SDK. Not sure what the terms are, anyone know?

It seems to have different firmware, some different hardware. We'll see if it works with the open-source drivers, and if not, someone will need to do a bounty to hack it, again. We wonder if they're shipping hardware that can only be used if you agree to some terms before you get the SDK. It seems to be completely free?

In announcing Kinect for Windows today, Microsoft said that "We are building the Kinect for Windows platform in a way that will allow other companies to integrate Kinect into their offerings and we have invested in an approach that allows them to develop in ways that are dependable and scalable.

"We have chosen a hardware-only business model for Kinect for Windows, which means that we will not be charging for the SDK or the runtime; these will be available free to developers and end-users respectively. As an independent developer, IT manager, systems integrator, or ISV, you can innovate with confidence knowing that you will not pay license fees for the Kinect for Windows software or the ongoing software updates, and the Kinect for Windows hardware you and your customers use is supported by Microsoft."