If you haven’t seen it around the blogosphere and news websites copying around, Jorge Brouwer is filing a class action lawsuit for 5 million dollars against Microsoft for negligent hardware design in the Xbox 360. His copies of Madden and Gears of War were scratched from normal use in his Xbox.
Not only is it insulting that Microsoft offers to replace them for a $20 fee, but I know I would be pretty upset to lose a match of Gears of War to a hardware fault.
Should Microsoft pay for the alleged hardware defects? Is Brouwer just another whiner looking for an easy way to make a buck in the American court system? These are both tired questions which I am not going to address.
What is interesting to me about this article is that it is yet again another case where hardware faults are not tolerated by the public. Hardware manufactures have dealt with lawsuits from the smallest error while software engineers get the luxury of announcing they will fix it and release a new one later. It seems, if you can’t touch it, it doesn’t matter.
Intel’s first floating point processing unit in the Pentium processor had a bug known as the FDIV bug. Some floating point division would not yield the correct result as IEEE 754 standards would dictate. If you want to try it yourself, perform 4195835 / 3145727 on your FPU by opening any calculator on your operating system. If you see 1.333820, you’re good. If you see 1.333739, Intel will replace your chip. That’s right hardware engineers, we will not tolerate error on the scale of 1 in 9 billion calculations. (Wikipedia)
The line between hardware and software engineering is not only concealed from the consumer, but even a difficult one to pin down by computer experts. Is the hardware failing or are the drivers poorly written? Will software ever scrutinized as much as hardware? People depend on computer systems more every day – will this eventually cause a change in how these systems are designed to assure success, or will business continue to rely on attempting to control damages later? These are the interesting topics we should discuss.