Creative Labs Under Massive Blogosphere Attack Over Post To Daniel_K

A couple of updates to yesterdays post.

It appears Creative Labs is under a massive blogosphere attack at this moment.

  • As I write this there are 176 pages of feedback to Phil O’Shaughnessy’s about his post to Daniel_K. Mr. O’Shaughnessy is getting a lesson in Corporate Communications like he’s never had in his life.
  • The forum page where Mr. O’Shaughnessy’s post starts has been hit 230,000 times since his post last Friday.

Some Facual Updates on Creative Labs

  • The owner of Creative Labs is Sim Wong Hoo.
  • Creative Labs is based in Singapore.
  • According to Wikipedia “Sim Wong Hoo with his school friend Ng Kai Wa set up shop in Pearl Centre in Singapore. He got his start running Creative as a computer repair shop. While doing this he developed an add-on memory board for the Apple II computer that they sold as well. Later, Creative started creating customized PCs adapted for the Chinese language which included enhanced audio capabilities so that the device could produce speech and melodies. The success of this audio interface led to the development of a stand-alone sound card named Sound Blaster that Creative marketed. Sound Blaster was very successful and has been used as a standard of comparison for sound cards.

Below is an interview with Sim Wong Hoo

As I outlined in yesterdays post, this company built their business on technology that fit into slots in computers and they should know what Daniel_K is all about. As I posted yesterday there is no reason for Daniel_K to be treated the way he has. As such I have added my name to an online petition on “Creative Labs Driver Quality”. That petition can be found at
http://www.PetitionOnline.com/crtvlabs/

After watching the video with Sim Wong Hoo it’s sad to see that Creative Labs is going through this.

….brad….

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Creative Lab Inc.’s Corporate Actions And The Reptilian Brain…..

This post is about a corporate culture problem that surfaces regularly and I just don’t understand why it continues. Last week I wrote a post on silo’d corporate culture and how in SONY’s case they had to back down on a $50 charge to remove bloatware from their VAIO laptops. Obviously following SONY’s BMG CD copy prevention scandal in 2005 the corporation had a disaster plan for this space and they literally took action to correct the situation before it reached the mainstream press en mass. When “narrow” corporate thinking gets exposed to the light of day in the “blogosphere” the actions make no sense to anyone and as the Cluetrain Manefesto points out, large corporations thinking (and acting) with a reptilian (like) brain are simply not sustainable in this environment. Yet here is another case and it’s not pretty.

I just finished reading, reviewing and “Twittering” my usual news sources and to my dismay I came across a posting that fell into the same camp….. The post was on the Soundblaster Forum and it was written by Phil O’Shaughnessy, VP Corporate Communications, Creative Labs Inc. The post is directed towards an individual identified as Daniel_K. From what I can gather this individual had –in the past– improved Soundblasters drivers so they would run better on existing operating systems. He had also provided drivers that would allow their Soundblaster cards to run on computers or OS’s of which Creative Labs Inc. did not provide drivers. I gather that in the past his driver patches were distributed for free and his site would solicit donations from the people who made use of them. This is in keeping with a number of sites on the internet.

tomasz.sienicki at gmail.comIn O’Shaughnessy’s post he basically tells Daniel_K to cease and desist from creating and distributing any further driver improvements. He states; “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.” In reading the responses in the forum it appears that at the root of the problem is the fact that Creative Labs Inc. does not fully license all of the IP in their cards.

As a person who has purchased large quantities of Creative Products for a public University, as well as a number of their products on a personal level, I have to question Creative Labs Inc.’s actions and thinking in this case. From my point of view they have really opened up the proverbial “can of worms” with this post.

The idea of putting slots in a computer traces its roots to the ENIAC computer in the 1940’s. Their purpose was to expand the capability of a computer through a standard interface. They reappeared in personal computers and gainded great popularity in the APPLE II in the late 1970’s and the IBM PC in the 1980’s. They were put into PC’s so purchasers could expand capability and migrate hardware between generations of hardware and software. In fact Creative Labs got their start creating soundcards for the slots in the original generations of IBM PC’s. So if they’ve licensed software that been placed on their cards that’s not migratable and not fully open then they’ve created the problem. It’s hard for me to buy into any of the arguments Creative Labs is putting forward in this matter. I also don’t know that they’ve made their customers fully aware of these kind of limitations at the time of the products purchase. Coming from the “broadcast technology” side of the business, the manufacturers who place similar restrictions on technology usually do so by encasing it in its own “black box” that often includes its own OS. They don’t market them as “mass” consumer items in commodity hardware and then years later try to shut down software advancement.

Hence if Daniel_K’s efforts to improve the value of Soundblasters products is seen as a benefit to any of Creative Labs customers then problem is not Daniel_K’s, it is really Creative Labs own fault. First for not licensing the embedded IP appropriately and secondly in forgetting the history of computer hardware and the expectations of those who purchase it. Judging by the response to post on the forum, I’m not the only person to question Creative Labs Inc.’s actions in this case. It’s especially questionable when Mr. O’Shaughnessy’s post contrasts the fact that the companies own drivers and service doesn’t match the solutions that Daniel_K’s drivers do.

As an institutional buyer for a public University this post places all of our future purchases of Creative Labs products in jeopardy. Why? Because a University undertakes research. And some of that research might involve customizing computer components for use as technology that it was not originally intended for. And in some cases it’s often older technology that is employed in the initial experimental stages.

If I read Mr. O’Shaughnessy post correctly, Creative Labs Inc. views that kind of action as “stealing our goods”. If that is indeed the case then I’m now placed in a position where I have review any purchase requests that come across my desk that want to employ technology from Creative Labs. As a University Director who is responsible for equipment purchases, I will be forced to ask the staff requesting the technology to look for alternative soundcard technologies that are open by both design and nature.

Mr. O’Shaughnessy post clearly asks Daniel_K to respect Creative Labs rights as “owners”. One has to view this post in the context of all of Creative Labs current and future customers. In effect Creative Labs has extended its “ownership” rights to individuals who purchase their products and its clear that those rights involve granting no right to further develop or extend the capabilities of Soundblaster products. By practice (and I’m reflecting on comments on Soundblasters own forum) this appears to mean even if features don’t work when purchased and especially if they were embedded in the products firmware but not enabled at the time of purchase.

My comment is that this notion won’t fly within the University culture that I work in and I honestly don’t know of any similar University or research environment where it would. I also don’t think it will fly with a number of Creative Labs higher end customers who see their purchase of Creative Labs product as an investment. Some of Creative Labs advanced cards are costly and they are employed in a number of advanced audio production situations. In the end if Creative Labs has asked its customers to respect its corporate rights as “owners” then Creative Labs will also have to respect their customers rights as “consumers”… And as Creative Labs may find out consumers vote with their wallet.

What’s really bizarre in this case is that Creative Labs was built on placing their hardware in the open slots of an IBM PC. Within that open environment they were encouraged by an open culture and market to improve their products. It’ s somewhat similar to what Daniel_K is doing today and Creative Labs –of all companies– should understand what an open environment is all about. That includes what Daniel_K is about and what the expectations are of consumers, be they corporate, institutional or personal, when they purchase product that fits into standardized PC slots.

I hope Creative Labs Inc. re-thinks their policy and starts securing full rights for the technology that it places in their cards. Since their argument is they don’t and I’m a public servant, I’m now forced from this day forward to seek open soundcard solutions. If you feel strong about this GIZMODO provides Phil O’Shaughnessy’s e-mail address in their post; Creative Presents Cease-and-Desist Note to Developer Hero…..

….brad….