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.
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 newegg.com 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.
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.