21 December 2005

Creative Technology - the king of Cheese?

Note: Heavily edited to remove suggestive material

Late last year, Creative Technologies CEO Sim Wong Hoo declared 'war' on Apple Computer with his company's line of portable music players.

He said that he wanted to capture the iPod's market share within the next year. Well, Creative lost that war - claiming only about 10 percent of the worldwide market while the iPod continues to dominate with 70 percent.

And then - a few months ago - Creative Technology revealed that they had been granted a patent for an interface design which allows users to search for songs on their MP3 players by title, artist, album and so on.

And Sim, being the cheap fella that he is, announces that this is proof of Creative's innovation in the market. That they're the leaders of the digital music revolution and shit like that.

Big deal! Such an interface had already existed on music-playing software on PCs and Macs long before the first Creative Nomad Jukebox hit shelves. It was a natural and obvious thing to do with the technology - sorting your stuff with metadata. After all, that's the whole point of having metadata in your files.

And if Creative is the innovator that Sim says it is, why are they targeting their products against the iPod? Why did they change their graphical user interface to ape the iPod's more closely? Why do they have similar designs? When Apple released the first white iPod, Creative eventually made their Zen player white coloured as well (with white earphone cables too!!!).

Then, when they offered the iPod mini in 5 different colours, they started making stuff in 7 colours.

From the looks of it, Creative's engineering team simply waits until Apple launches a new iPod variant before deciding what to do next.

For more links and background info, go to this link:

Which brings me to the press release which I am currently looking at. It's about their latest player, the Zen Vision: M.

In all honesty, it's a rather nice design and I actually like the fact that it'll play various video formats right out of the box (including DivX and XviD). It's got a 2.5in LCD screen too - just like the iPod - only this one displays about 262k colours or something.

However, the following lines in the press release caught my eye:

    When people see the Zen Vision:M, they tell us it’s incredibly cool,” said Sim Wong Hoo, chairman and CEO of Creative. “We designed the Zen Vision:M with its mesmerizing 262,144 color screen to display four times the color of the 30GB iPod that plays video, and to provide twice the battery life for video playback. Plus, we offer people the freedom to choose their video in a variety of different formats, and to get subscription music or download tracks from a number of different sites to their player.”

Read the whole thing here.

He's getting his ass whooped by Apple and he's still playing second fiddle, using the "My torn slippers have nicer buckles than your shiny boots" sort of reasoning. Basically, they take the basic ingredient from Apple, alter it a bit, and slap on countless other features and make various 'improvements' while neglecting other areas.

Of course, what Creative wont tell you is that the Zen Vision: M is almost twice as thick, weighs about 27g more (it weighs about 163g in total) and doesn't have a standard USB plug - and that you MUST have software installed on your PC in order to transfer files if you're using the Zen Vision: M as a portable hard disk.

Plus, they've jammed in useless stuff like an FM radio and tout other companies' online music services as one of their own features. Classic!

And that's the problem with Creative - Sim has stressed that "Creative is a technology company, not a lifestyle company", which shows an incredible lack of foresight. Who the hell cares about the technology? People care about whether their electronic gadgets are useable.

And from experience with Creative Zen portable players and MediaSource software, they're still lagging far behind Apple's iPods and iTunes music jukebox software, which is far better integrated and generally much easier to use.

And what's really annoying are his constant references to Apple. Why does he always make the highlight of his press releases a statement that basically says "Hey, Apple products are rubbish compared to our's"

Does he need to leech off Apple's fame by all these media publicity stunts?



The Wanderer said...

is it just me, or does the zen vision m looks like it has a punani for controls?

hmmm, gives new meaning to the term pussy control.

Anonymous said...

Hello Chris,

I am a regular reader of your blog. Rather unique and interesting content.
However, I feel somewhat obliged to repond to your latest comments.

Firstly, take a step back and look at the bigger picture: an Asian company that spends considerably less on R&D than Apple is capable of putting a competitive product alongside the iPod on shelves all around the world. This proves their ability to compete with highly bank-rolled, Western counterparts. For us buyers, this provides a value-for-money alternative to the iPod. Whether or not it is THE best, is up to the consumer to decide. You get what you pay for. Sometimes more.

With your reference to the innovation/plagiarism issue, that is exactly what Intellectual Property rights and patent laws were set up to handle. If you've ever been there yourself, you'll find it is a complex maze of definitions and subtle variations. To put it simply, if there is a problem then Apple would take on Creative via the legal process. I can't see why it infuriates you to the extent of lashing out (in a personal manner) against one man. You may not be an MP3-gadget fan but you do appear to be a strong Apple follower.

Your comments on the "Chinaman mentality" is, to put it mildly, rather discriminatory and I would imagine, offensive to some (racist comes to mind). Did you ever feel the same way when the reverse occured, say, when the western world re-labelled designed-and-made-in-China products and passed them off as their own? Guess who made the biggest chunk of profit then. So much so that latest EU laws seek to limit import. So why slag the Asians... there are foreign driving forces involved. Clearly there wouldn't be any market for the "Chinaman" to exploit if there wasn't a large enough demand from "somewhere". To be honest, IF I were to take a stab at the "attitude" thing, I might have a go at the "typical Chinaman" for spitting in public places, rude behaviour and perhaps their general disregard for any sense of courtesy. Surely that takes precedence in terms of "making us all look bad". Perhaps in the future I expect that you'll be doing something very significant to "make us all look good"? Stereotyping is not the way forward. After all, we don't want the Americans to know that they're a bunch of obese, burger-munching, gasoline-burning, war-driven people, would we? Anology of the day - Kill a tree or choke a dolphin, take your pick.

I digressed. Back to the product/company issues. The truth from an avid journalist is always welcomed... so is a little diplomacy. I believe one has to be considerate when dispensing opinions to the public. Lesser-informed individuals do tend to take what they read as the gospel truth. Others, well, for me it left a bad taste (of the writer) to linger for a bit. Hopefully not for too long. By the way, rest assured I am in no manner linked to any named organisations or persons in your article.

If you've got up to here then thanks for reading what I've written. It is not my intention to offend so do feel free to delete this feedback if you wish.

All the best.

Tan Kit Hoong said...

I'm not taking any side here but just want to point out that his name is Chris CHONG, so he can't be rascist if criticises his own race. :D

The Wanderer said...

reading anon's post gave me a big headache. totally skimmed it. if i wanted to read overly long posts, i'd read screenshots. jeez, somebody actually paid any attention to panjang's posts.

i have to echo tkh's comment too, it's ok to be racist to your own race. comedians practically make a living off that fact.

Big C said...

Anonymous commentors are chicken pieces of chinaman shit. Better buy yourself a new soapbox bitch, cuz you must've worn your current one out by now.