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I can’t deny that the way Sony is forcing people to upgrade their PSPs annoys me greatly, but that’s nothing compared to what I encountered on my Xbox 360 over the weekend. It was widely documented last week that certain individuals had made use of the Xbox 360 “Kiosk Disc” (the demo disc that runs on most of the X360 in-store pods) to potentially hack the console and facilitate the implementation of “Home Brew” code. It was also widely reported that Microsoft had released a new update for the Xbox 360 and that its primary objective was to close this loophole – as reported by our sister publication Bit-Tech here.

When I fired up my Xbox 360 at the weekend I was asked whether I wanted to upgrade to the new Dashboard version – I chose not to install the update, but then noticed a few changes to my X360. First up all my Xbox Live functionality seemed to have disappeared – My Friends list had gone, as had the Xbox Live Marketplace. But the biggest shock came when I tried to load a game and nothing happened. After resetting the console a couple of times I was still unable to run Need For Speed Most Wanted. At this point it occurred to me that the only difference between now and the previous time I used my X360 was the release of the Dashboard update.

Putting two and two together I relented and agreed to install the update. As soon as the update had finished, my Xbox Live features returned and Need For Speed booted up without incident. So, whereas Sony is making you choose to either upgrade or not play your new game, Microsoft is telling you to either upgrade or not play anything at all. The most annoying part of all this that you’re still asked if you want to upgrade – giving an illusion of choice when there really isn’t one.

What you have here is a question of ownership – does an Xbox 360 console belong to you once you’ve paid your hard earned cash and taken it home? In my opinion, once you’ve purchased something it should belong to you and you should be able to do what ever you like with it – including not installing an update if you don’t want it. But the fact that you’re not actually given a choice when it comes to updates, makes it feel as though the console still belongs to Microsoft rather than the end user.

Ultimately I’m not that bothered about having to install the X360 update, since I had no intention of trying to run anything but official software on my machine anyway. But I do feel that the end user really does deserve to have a choice and not be forced into an upgrade, even if those upgrades will bring with them certain benefits. After all, we do live in a democracy, don’t we?

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