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MS to sue over X360 devkits?

The stolen ones in Germany.

Online reports today suggest that Microsoft may be considering a major lawsuit over the theft of Xbox 360 development kits - while a curious statement from a hacking group implicated in the theft claims that the software giant knew about it all along.

The lawsuit reports appear to stem from a Dutch newspaper story this week, which said that Microsoft is preparing a $100 million suit against those responsible for the theft - which could, according to development experts, speed up the process of hacking the security on the Xbox 360 significantly.

The veracity of that report, however, is drawn into some doubt by the fact that it goes on to claim that Microsoft is afraid that Sony or Nintendo may have got their hands on one of the development kits - which seems almost laughably unlikely, and probably wouldn't give Microsoft many sleepless nights even if true.

What's more unusual about the whole story, however, is a statement from a member of hacking group, on whose websites pictures of the stolen devkits have emerged, claiming that Microsoft was actually complicit in the group's acquisition of the kits.

Posting on the Smartxx forums, the group member - using the handle "Hamptitampti" - says that the team was offered seven of the X360 kits for sale, and bought four of them - a fact which it immediately brought to the attention of Microsoft, with the group deciding in collaboration with the platform holder to post the pictures of the kits to its website.

The objective of this was apparently to assist in the investigation of who originally stole the development kits - but according to the poster, people within Microsoft unaware of the operation went on to inform the police that they should investigate Smartxx, leading to the current situation.

In the tradition of good conspiracy stories, the poster goes on to say that Microsoft is undoubtedly "going to deny everything again, as always" - but claims that the software giant is paying for his legal representation in this case.

In other words, it's increasingly difficult to work out what on earth is going on in this case, but it certainly begins to look like there's more to it than simply a group of thieves selling stolen devkits to a hacking group and said hacking group suddenly discovering that handling stolen goods isn't very clever.

Ultimately, though, the conclusion remains the same for Microsoft - the company faces the prospect of security on the Xbox 360 being worked on by hackers before the system is even on shelves, which given the proliferation of mod chipping and piracy on the original Xbox, is an embarrassing situation for the firm.