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When Filling a Need Turns Into a Fiasco

Please be aware that this entry is over two years old. Therefore, it may contain broken links, outdated information, or views and content which are no longer completely valid.

The “Weekly Rant” column was featured in the PC Mechanic Newsletter since 2005. Topics relate to some aspect of technology, which include opinions on hardware, software, new technology, technology companies, and computing standards.

To be successful, you must fill a need. Pretty much any occupation has evolved from needing somebody to fulfill a task, service, or produce something or other.

This week, some of you hardware junkies have probably caught wind of the latest PR fiasco: Creative and their sound card hardware drivers.

In a nutshell, with the introduction of Windows Vista a little over a year ago to the public, hardware developers scrambled to put out Vista-compatible drivers for their hardware. Up to this point, the common Windows platform they had to worry about was XP, which had become the de-facto standard in its 5-year existence leading up to Vista’s public release.

The problem was that since Vista was such a different animal, many manufactures had to basically develop their hardware drivers from scratch, causing a large lag time between Vista’s public release and the availability of working drivers for various pieces of hardware.

At this point, most of the common hardware in use today has driver support in Vista. This is where Creative’s trouble begins. So, we have our main points:

  1. Creative has not written working Vista drivers for many of its common sound cards in use today. This is over a year after Vista’s release
  2. Many of the products in question are advertised as working under Vista, while in fact, they do not because of broken drivers provided by Creative
  3. After becoming fed up with Creative, a programmer from the Creative forum community took the initiative and wrote his own drivers for creative sound cards.
  4. The programmer discovered that Creative had intentionally crippled features on sound cards through their drivers for various cards, presumably to promote “manufactured obsolescence” to force people to buy new products that advertised the missing features available on new cards.
  5. The programmer started accepting donations for the development of these unofficial drivers for the time he spent on them. Creative didn’t like that, deleted all of the programmer’s forum threads related to the unofficial drivers (on Creative’s forums), and asked that the programmer stop development and pull all materials. This is about when the forum community turned into a digital media circus.

While Creative was well within its rights to protect its Intellectual Property, the customer base was certainly not happy.

Why?

The unofficial drivers allowed their Creative hardware to work under Vista, while with Creative’s official drivers, it would not. After spending anywhere between $30 and $300 on hardware, not being able to use it because of software issues or limitations is liable to make anyone unhappy.

So, what happened?

Someone found a need, filled it, became successful, and got knocked down because what they were doing wasn’t technically within their legal rights to do with someone else’s product.

But, that doesn’t stop thousands of unhappy Creative hardware owners from voicing their complaints and condemning Creative for cutting off their only means for getting their hardware to work under Vista.

Creative has yet to respond to the online riot. My guesses as to what they’ll do?

  1. Nothing, other than to reiterate their Intellectual Property sovereignty
  2. Backpedal and work out a deal with the programmer
  3. Rush to put out “official” drivers of their own that work–for the most part (in order to placate users and hopefully draw back some lost customers).

Here’s some of the highlights should you wish to read further:

http://consumerist.com/373901/creative-sparks-customer-revolt-when-it-tries-to-silence-third+party-programmer

(Originally published in the pcmech.com newsletter)