Gadgets for humans

Logitech is bricking your old hardware, reminding us why cloud-powered gadgets suck

Logitech Harmony Link

Logitech informed owners of its Harmony Link – a hub to connect your home entertainment devices and control them from your phone or tablet – that it’s shutting off the gadget’s cloud service, so you’ll no longer be able to play movies, music or TV shows with a connected Android or iOS device after March 16, 2018.

The company said that if your Link is under warranty, you can score a free upgrade to the newer Harmony Hub. However, that leaves out a lot of customers who purchased the Link closer to its launch back in 2011. All they get is a discount on the purchase of a new Hub.

Logitech’s intention here may be to provide better service with a more powerful device – but if you read the posts in this thread on the company’s forum, it’s clear that many customers share the notion of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ And they’re right.

It’s a sad reminder that gadgets we’ve purchased with the intenion of using as we see fit, for as long as we like, can indeed be snuffed out by the companies that made them, with the flick of a switch back at headquarters – and there’s nothing you can do about it.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened, either – last year, MetaSaaS co-founder Aro Gilbert penned a blog post bemoaning the death of his Revolv smart home hub after Nest acquired the manufacturer and remotely bricked the device.

Besides the principle of it, what makes me mad is that we’re slowly losing ownership of the things we pay for, learn to use, and integrate into our lives. We’re already giving up our privacy and handing over data about ourselves – but we’re now handing over the kill codes to some of our favorite products as well, and the power to decide when to upgrade.

I’m glad I got to use my iPod Classic for years after Apple stopped making it, and I hope to be able to use a bunch of other things I own for a long while yet, like Bluetooth speakers, the original Chromecast that’s plugged into my 1080p TV, and my external hard drives. I shudder at the thought of receiving a notification announcing that these devices won’t work because the manufacturer said so.

There are better ways for companies to handle this situation, and they’d do well to consider the impact their decisions have on customers before pulling the plug on their products. Imagine if you’d painstakingly set up your aging parents’ home with a Revolv hub and Harmony Link, and then moved abroad, only to learn that the systems no longer work.

If tech firms are truly concerned about delivering better service, they’d do well to think about the tail end of the ownership experience.

Update (November 10, 2017): Logitech noted in a blog post that it will replace all Harmony Links with a Harmony Hub, regardless of whether they’re still under warranty. You can find more information on this page.

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Published November 8, 2017 — 08:07 UTC