Sony Vs. bleem
Have you been following this? If you're even a casual visitor of Monroeworld and Dave's Classics, you probably know about this. It seems a little company doing business as bleem have developed a rather nifty little program that makes your PC think it's a Sony Playstation. Apparently it does it fairly well too -- though not yet perfectly. This seems to have driven Sony right over the edge though -- they've tried several times to stop them with little or no success. Will they stop them? I hope not....
The whole concept being debated here is Emulation -- using one piece of hardware to emulate a completely different piece of hardware. Usually it's using a PC to emulate an out of production computer (Apple II, Commodore, Amiga -- to name a few) or an arcade machine. These programs are perfectly legal to have and use -- BUT -- whether you have a right to run the software is another matter. The average PC can't read an old Apple or Amiga floppy, and they certainly don't have slots for Commodore, or Atari, or Nintendo, or Sega cartridges -- and they certainly don't have sockets ready to accept the ROM chips out of an arcade machine. So, you have to get those files from somewhere -- and it's usually a good bet that you don't have your own legal copy of them. The Playstation is a slightly different matter -- Playstation's use CD-Roms, that your PC can read -- and so it's easy to legally obtain software to use on your emulator. The legal gray area for previous Playstation emulators was the fact that they needed a copy of the PSX bios to work -- and that is a copyrighted program, that again, is not available in a format your PC can accept -- so you have to get the file somewhere (that's what got Dave's Classics in trouble the second time -- Sony went after him for posting the bios files). But guess what? Bleem doesn't use the Sony bios -- it emulates that too -- so no Sony copyrights are being violated by the program.
But Sony doesn't want you playing your games on anything but a Playstation -- Why? My personal opinion -- the Playstation II. Sony has already announced a new version of the Playstation -- so why are they suddenly fighting so hard for what will soon be 'obsolete hardware'. Have you seen the specs for the PSII -- a central processor core that rivals the speed of a Pentium III -- graphics engine that embarasses the best from 3dfx and nVidia -- state of the art DVD technology for truly epic games -- and of course, sound to match. Sounds impressive -- if it were a PC it would cost thousands of dollars. Last time I looked, nobody was interested in paying much more than $300 for a top of the line gaming console. If Sony wants to unload any significant amount of those puppies, they're going to have to sell at a loss (which is, in fact, industry opinion -- as well as my own). So where to make up the loss revenue? Selling old Playstations to the poor slobs who can't afford the new one. And bleem could close a market they haven't gotten into yet -- PC Gamers whose wives won't let them by Playstations because they've spent to much money on thier PC (i.e. me). Why should I risk spousal anxiety over a video game, when I can get an emulator at a fraction of the cost? But Sony starts yelling copyright violations and chances for abuses, hoping to shut down the competition. The real fact of the matter is, as far as the game software goes, bleem provides better protection than Sony does. People with access to CD-Rom burners can make copies of those Playstation games -- and they'll run just fine 90% of the time -- on a Playstation. Bleem is hardcoded to work only with original discs -- copies won't work with it. So who's really more interested in preventing copyright abuse?
But Willy, I don't really care about Sony or bleem, why should I care about this? Tell me -- are you sitting down at a genuine IBM PC while you read this? If you aren't, then your probably using a machine that is emulating an IBM PC. Those silly messages you see as your computer boots up belong to emulator programs telling your hardware to behave like an IBM machine. Have a computer with other than an Intel processor? Same deal. And don't get me started about subsequent lawsuits about Windows emulating a MacIntosh (all you Mac users -- don't laugh, your beloved operating system was ripped of from Xerox -- Jobs and Woz didn't come up with it on thier own) DOS emulated CP/M -- 123 emulated Visicalc -- network cards by the millions emulate NE2000's. It just goes on and on -- but it's all legal as long as no copyrighted code is used. The only company to loose the emulation battle was Paperback Software's VP Planner -- because it was found to contain a significant amount of code identical to 123. Bleem doesn't do that -- it just annoys Sony. And is that really a bad thing?? It will be if Sony wins.
July 2000 update:
In what I find to be an extremely amusing development, bleem is now available for the Sega Dreamcast system -- so now you can get rid of the old Playstation and play your games on your Dreamcast.