Wi-Fi Wiretapping Update

There isn’t a whole lot going on in the world of intellectual property at the moment (though make sure to check out the Senate hearings on the NSA’s data collection programs…that’s pretty important).  The only real interesting update (involving a previous post) was that Google petitioned the Ninth Circuit to reconsider its earlier decision stating that intercepting data from unencrypted Wi-Fi constituted wiretapping.  Google’s logic?  Calling Wi-Fi signals “wiretapping” will create confusion as to what radio signals a user can and cannot legally intercept (including radio and TV signals).  I find this reasoning lacking.  The court opinion made it clear that they considered the more common usage of the term “radio communications” to be the one referenced by the Wiretap Act (listening to the radio for instance) and not to all radio transmissions.  Lack of clarity was not a problem with the Ninth Circuit’s original ruling, and Google did little to challenge the ruling beyond simply saying that they thought it was wrong.

In other news, Valve spent the week making a number of announcements concerning their future (available at http://store.steampowered.com/livingroom/).  At time of writing, Valve announced two new products: SteamOS and Steam Machines.  SteamOS is a new, Linux-based operating system optimized for running games, while Steam Machines represent Valve’s first attempt at a game console.  There is a third announcement pending (likely for a new controller, though I still hold out hope for particular game announcements).

I’m personally still not sold on either of these products.  SteamOS’s success requires a large portion of PC gamers to change over to a completely different operating system.  That isn’t impossible (and Valve has the best shot at pulling this off), but such an effort strikes me as overly ambitious.  I suspect that without a great deal of developer support (in the form of some big name games made as SteamOS exclusives) this operating system will have a hard time getting off the ground.  I do think that for some people (you know who you are…), SteamOS is a godsend though.  There have always been a contingent of PC gamers who stayed on Windows only because game and game hardware driver support is significantly better than Linux or Apple’s.  SteamOS may provide those people with an excuse to leave Windows entirely, but I feel like that’s not a large enough number of people to make the operating system a success.  Some of the cooler features (like game streaming over a home network) gives this thing a better shot.

The Steam Machine has a better shot though.  My skepticism there comes mostly from the need to compete against Sony and Microsoft in the living room.  The XBox and Playstation (and the Wii from Nintendo) dominate that market, and would seemingly create an uphill battle for Valve.  I suspect that Valve is aiming for a different audience entirely: PC gamers who want a set top box that makes it easier to share their game libraries across multiple devices.  Given Valve’s game loaning program (announced earlier in the year), that appears to be an emphasis for them recently.  Having a device that manages living room entertainment intuitively definitely gives a company like Valve an opening.  I suspect that the third announcement, whatever it may be, will help determine how viable this business venture is.  For what it’s worth, I look forward to seeing Steam Machines and SteamOS in action when they become available.

That’s it for me.  See you all next week.


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