Creative Labs: Contending for PR Disaster of the year

Mikey 15 comments
  • PR Disasters
Creative Labs: Contending for PR Disaster of the year

Creative Technology LTD, the company who brought us the Soundblaster, Live and Audigy series of sound cards, seems to be trying to steal the 'worst PR' title away from Sony. Here's the skinny.

More than a year since Vista's launch, Creative are still unable to provide drivers that actually work as expected on the OS. Pretty poor form, but that's not what this is about. The only reason that Vista users were still buying Creative sound cards, or would even consider upgrading to Vista when they already had a Creative sound card, was due to the hard work done by driver modder Daniel_K.

Daniel_K has single handedly been supporting Creative sound card users with his own hacked drivers enabling certain features which Creative had deliberately crippled. This came out of necessity as mentioned, because Creative still haven't released drivers that work properly.

So, how do Creative reward Daniel_K? The message posted by Phil O'Shaughnessy, the VP of Corporate Communications at Creative Labs speaks for itself:


We are aware that you have been assisting owners of our Creative sound cards for some time now, by providing unofficial driver packages for Vista that deliver more of the original functionality that was found in the equivalent XP packages for those sound cards. In principle we don't have a problem with you helping users in this way, so long as they understand that any driver packages you supply are not supported by Creative. Where we do have a problem is when technology and IP owned by Creative or other companies that Creative has licensed from, are made to run on other products for which they are not intended. We took action to remove your thread because, like you, Creative and its technology partners think it is only fair to be compensated for goods and services. The difference in this case is that we own the rights to the materials that you are distributing. By enabling our technology and IP to run on sound cards for which it was not originally offered or intended, you are in effect, stealing our goods. When you solicit donations for providing packages like this, you are profiting from something that you do not own. If we choose to develop and provide host-based processing features with certain sound cards and not others, that is a business decision that only we have the right to make.

Although you say you have discontinued your practice of distributing unauthorized software packages for Creative sound cards we have seen evidence of them elsewhere along with donation requests from you. We also note in a recent post of yours on these forums, that you appear to be contemplating the release of further packages. To be clear, we are asking you to respect our legal rights in this matter and cease all further unauthorized distribution of our technology and IP. In addition we request that you observe our forum rules and respect our right to enforce those rules. If you are in any doubt as to what we would consider unacceptable then please request clarification through one of our forum moderators before posting.

Phil O'Shaughnessy
VP Corporate Communications
Creative Labs Inc

Since O'Shaughnessy posted the message a few days ago, a revolt has started and is gaining serious momentum. People are declaring to never buy a Creative product again, and someone has even setup a web site called BoycottCreative.

If that wasn't enough, Newegg, a significant online computer hardware store are allegedly dropping Creative products due to the vast amount of return orders that are being processed due to the revolt. This message was posted by a Newegg representative:

To Whom it May Concern:

While it is not our place to condemn the decisions of Creative regarding this issue, our customers come first. That being said, it has come to our attention that many of our customers are not happy with the products Creative has released nor the support for those products. To wit, we have processed nearly 5,000 return orders within the past 48 hours. While it is not normally in our best interest to publically comment in a manufacturer's forum, the overwhelming concensus has left us little choice. As such, effective tommorow morning will suspend sales of the sound cards in question, particularly those indicated as "Vista compatible", pending an investigation into the matter. Those of you whom recently ordered such a card will still recieve your product as indicated in any relevant conversations. While we regret this abrupt decision, it has been deemed neccessary to protect the interest of our consumers. We welcome contact from Creative as soon as is possible so that we may resolve this issue.

Thank you,

So what can be made of all this? Sure Creative might have had a legal leg to stand on, but the more noble approach might have been to offer Daniel_K a job, or hire him as a consultant. The bottom line is Creative have failed miserably to deliver adequate drivers for an operating system that has been available for more than a year, and it was thanks to one man that they still registered on the radar of Vista users, myself included.

My $0.02: Piss poor effort, Creative. You have lost my business as well.

Update: Daniel_K communicates his thoughts on the issue to Wired.

More commentary:

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Tuesday 1st April 2008 | 10:46 AM

I don't understand? I ordered a disk from the UK one month after Vista was released for my creative card that was Vista capable. I have had no problems with it and I have full functionality within the software. I have had software updates from Creative since then. So I am not sure what is going on with drivers that are not available for creative soundcards. I have always been happy with Creative and lets face it, it is there product and they have the rights to dictate what happens with it. Yes I understand that Daniel_K has been very helpful but to say that they should offer him a job? And to suddenly stop selling Creative products because of the way they implied their rights about their product - come on!

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Tuesday 1st April 2008 | 11:05 AM response to this comment by Bob. Bob, I also have a Creative X-FI card on Vista and I can say functionality is pathetic. Sure it works but you have limited to no control over the device; something which we have had since Windows 3.1 days.

Detailed control over levels is completely absent, basically all you can do is adjust the volume. That is not what I expected, **not what I paid for** and well below the par of an "X-Fi" card.

When someone helps you out for free, you don't take them out the back and shoot them. That's no way to reward your lifeline.

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Tuesday 1st April 2008 | 11:06 AM

I have an Audigy that is fully functional in XP, but is crippled when used on Vista - I only get the very basics. My Audigy was only months old at the time I adopted Vista as well.

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Tuesday 1st April 2008 | 12:23 PM

Why the hell wouldn't Creative not bite the bullett and offer this dude a job?

Personally, I refuse to go to vista until sites like this unanimously give it the thumbs up!

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Jim - Just A Guy

Tuesday 1st April 2008 | 02:32 PM response to this comment by Jake. They definitely should have offered the guy a job. then they would have come out smelling like roses. This action however is total B.S.

I just bought a new computer a few weeks ago. I got the Creative SB X-fi and I am running Vista Ultimate 64 bit. I have had no problems so far.

As far as Vista goes when I first turned the computer on I got angry. Very very angry. Over the past couple weeks I have been going through everything and seeing what I could or should adjust and getting familiar with the OS. I am not ready to give it a thumbs up but I am no where near as angry.

Now I know just enough to keep my self from breaking anything and I can see how some one that really knows their stuff would hate Vista. For the basic user that knows next to nothing, I can see a lot of headaches. For some some dumb shmoe like me that knows how to read and follow instructions and has a basic understanding of computers. It really has not been that bad of an experience and I starting to get comfortable with it. Especially since I learned how to modify the damned DEP. Like I said I can understand why tech savvy people would hate the OS and I am not that tech savvy so for me ignorance is bliss.

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Tuesday 1st April 2008 | 04:13 PM response to this comment by Bob. Yes your creative card 'works' but it's not working to full capacity. You're missing out on a lot of stuff, stuff that daniel k has put back in.

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Tuesday 1st April 2008 | 04:23 PM

I forgot to add the reason Creative are purposely doing this is because they want to get people to buy their newer sound cards, which will be supported properly on Vista. In other words, they want you to buy their products twice.

Its' reasonable for a company to build new hardware that works on Vista when a software solution wont work - and then expect us to buy it...but Creative are purposely NOT developing drivers for their older hardware in an effort to force us to buy the new hardware. Daniel K has proved to the world that the 'older' sound cards can be fully functional on Vista when somebody bothers to develop drivers that work which he did.

Reading between the lines of Phil O'Shaughnessy's statement its clear they are worried about lost earnings on newer sound cards. In essence they are anally violating customers and not even bothering to give the common courtesy of a reach around.

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Tuesday 1st April 2008 | 11:50 PM

Creative kinda got screwed by Microsoft over Vista (heh, just like allot of people I guess). I don't remember the details but Vista basically handles all audio acceleration internally, not relying on the Creative driver and bypassing allot of the hardware acceleration. So what it comes down to is all the fancy EAX and accelerated effects that the Soundblaster boards provided are gone and you might as well have the cheap integrated audio. There are some third party software that completely bypass Windows sound driver (like TeraCopy for file copy/move/delete), but again, I can't recall the names. I tried to dig up a link to this info but I think I read it in a print magazine, not online.

Now if Creative knew about all this beforehand and ran with it just to sell newer hardware is a big question to me. If its true I'll be looking elsewhere for audio hardware in the future.

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Wednesday 2nd April 2008 | 12:12 AM

How interesting that a major retail manufacturer of an operating system would not consult and work with the leading manufacturers of sound chips to ensure a marriage of convenience for both.
Microsoft has lost it. Just imagine the fun it is going to be once their new O/S rolls out that is supposed to be subscription based. Nothing is going to work unless you pay for it to work specifically and then only for a set period of time.

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Wednesday 2nd April 2008 | 12:12 AM

Ah, here it is, Directsound was removed from Vista and any program that relied on that was affected. Newer software using OpenAL is unaffected but obviously that not everything.

Supposedly Creative offers a program that would convert older Directsound files to OpenAL, but it doesn't support all applications and they even charge you for the Audigy version (X-Fi is free). If anyone has used either of these programs I'd like to hear about how they performed.

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Wednesday 2nd April 2008 | 07:33 AM

Download all of daniel's modded drivers here...

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Wednesday 2nd April 2008 | 01:22 PM response to this comment by hollowman777. The issue here isn't MS screwing Creative over, it's Creative screwing it's customers over.

New operating systems come out. It's the job of hardware vendors to support new OSs - that's why they get pre-releases years in advance.

What Creative has done *wrong* here isn't that they failed to provide Vista capable drivers for their sound cards. It's that they advertised capabilities that they can't provide. Their very latest sound cards still ship crippled in Vista, yet clearly advertise features that don't work, except in XP. Then they label the device as Vista Compatible. It's blatant false advertising.

Screen shots on the packaging also indicate XP only features as though they work in Vista, so either they photoshopped them or they mocked them up in other ways. This is not acceptable behaviour from a sound card vendor.

In effect, their product offers no better support than onboard cards, yet rather than face up to this and improve their quality of service, they tried to bluff and hide it.

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Wednesday 2nd April 2008 | 09:45 PM

Creative soundcard support on Vista is no doubt terrible. My X-Fi card hasn't worked properly one single time since I bought it, and there is no control over anything except for volume. I can't say I've tried Daniel_K's drivers, as I haven't heard of them up until this story was published. Stupid move on the behalf of Creative when they can't even get their own products to work properly on Vista.

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Monday 7th April 2008 | 09:43 AM

Yeah it was a bad move, when they made doom 3 they hired some guy that had built doom maps for free and put them online. They saw his work, liked it and hired him to make the doom 3 maps, and doom 3 is a great game!!! Creative on the other hand took the other route and nobody likes an unappreciative asshole. Ok maybe he shouldnt have asked for donations but hey he had put time into it and time is money. Anyway what do i care i only ever had one creative produce, it was a mouse and it broke!!! :)

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Promo Coder

Monday 7th April 2008 | 12:20 PM

Look like I found another reason to reconsider my desire to upgrade to a new vista box. Or at least double-check which sound card it includes!

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