Friday, May 9, 2014

Evil Product Design

This post will serve as the Hall of Infamy for product design. I'll update it as I find more examples. I don't own every product listed here, so some of my info just comes from product reviews and stories I find online. I actually put that line there because in light of the recent scandal where Mediabridge/Medialink lost their Amazon seller privileges harassing a critical reviewer, I don't want there a company threatening me for holding one of their products in poor esteem. These are just my opinions and my data might not be completely accurate!
  • An Optrel welding hood with planned obsolescence in the form of some 'non-serviceable' coin cell batteries encased in foam.
  • Dropcam is a surveillance camera that won't let you record locally. The hardware is $150 but you still have to pay $99 to $299 to use it with their cloud service. Here is a critical review from somebody who unwittingly bought the thing. It seems pretty obvious that they don't want you to use your own solutions for what to do with the video stream.
  • The general concept of selling one piece of hardware with different firmware installations at different prices. For example, oscilloscopes. If you could afford to sell me the hardware at that price, then you could afford to sell it with non-throttling firmware.
  • Back in the day when webcams were first getting popular and Apple was still trying to pit FireWire up against USB, my dad bought a USB webcam that was advertised as compatible with Mac. It was...but only if you forked over additional cash for the drivers by the same company that sold the webcam. There weren't generic drivers at the time, or at least most customers didn't know about them.
  • I went to a talk where the local fire station demo'd their equipment and it was really cool, but they dropped a mention of a yearly licensing agreement that they have to pay for the software and possibly firmware that go with the device. I was really confused and didn't get a chance to ask more questions, but I feel like something is amiss here. This equipment is specialty stuff, meant to work in extreme heat and with low failure rates (or certainly I should hope so!), and it is probably very expensive already. Nickle and diming the taxpayers for some of the simplest software and firmware out there (all it does is tell you how strong the strength is from the wireless pinger on the firefighter suit to the magic wand)? I wish I could be more angry at the company but some of that anger has to be directed at the (faulty) system by which our government chooses contractors and suppliers of equipment.

More to come.

1 comment:

  1. The last observation holds possibly true for almost any government/administration piece of equipment: cheap base price with ludicrous support contracts for mediocre product designs. Unfortunately this is how the system works.