Light Bulb DRM: Philips Locks Purchasers Out Of Third-Party Bulbs With Firmware Update
from the Patch-notes:-Adds-'buyer's-remorse' dept
The world of connected devices is upon us and things have never been better. Criminals can access your email account by breaking into your fridge. Your child's toys and your television record your conversations and send them to manufacturers' servers, where criminals are (again) able to access them. Your home thermostat goes HAL 9000 and attempts to set your house on fire. And, now, your light bulbs won't do the one thing you expect them to do: produce light.
Purchasers of the Philips Hue "smart" ambient lighting system are finding out that the new firmware pushed out by the manufacturer has cut off access to previously-supported light bulbs. (h/t William Neilson Jr.)
Philips just released firmware for the Philips Hue bridge that may permanently sever access to any “non-approved” ZigBee bulbs.ZigBee is the underlying standard that controls these smart lighting systems.
The recent change seems to suggest any non-Philips bulbs from manufacturers such as Cree, GE, and Osram will not be supported in many situations, whereas “Friends of Hue” branded product are. At the time of publication, it’s unclear whether 3rd party bulbs will stop working immediately after the firmware update or if they may only become inaccessible after the bridge is reset. We’re also not sure if being “reset” means rebooted or factory reset. This appears to apply to both the round v1 bridge and square v2 HomeKit-compatible bridge after the latest firmware update is applied.
ZigBee is the open, global standard of choice for connected lighting applications providing ease-of-use and low-cost installation and maintenance for both consumers and business.Philips uses ZigBee, which should mean any bulbs compatible with this standard will work with its Hue fixtures. Not anymore. The firmware update removes this support, limiting this "open, global" standard to Philips' own bulbs and those it has designated as "Friends of Hue."
Needless to say, purchasers aren't happy.
Literally. Philips has just slapped fans like us in the face and kicked interoperability out the door. Without any communication they delivered a new firmware to the system that disables adding products that they don't approve of. Basically they are banning other Zigbee Light Link products despite the fact that they are a Connected Lighting Alliance member whose mission is to promote interoperability.Philips only began delivering nonsensical statements about its removal of previously-existent functionality after the complaints began to roll in. And like so many other companies that have wielded this DRM-esque tactic against their own customers, the excuses offered may as well just read "because this makes us more money." Seriously, are any of Philips' pissed off purchasers really going to believe this excuse?
As it seems (and unless this is just a huge mistake on Philips' side), they have without a warning turned their open product into a walled garden. They have also destroyed the value of the solutions that the customers have set up based on Philips' promises.
And the worst thing is that Philips has done this to their most enthusiastic fans. To the early adopters. To those who enthusiastically recommended the system to their friends.
While the Philips Hue system is based on open technologies we are not able to ensure all products from other brands are tested and fully interoperable with all of our software updates. For guaranteed compatibility you need to use Philips Hue or certified Friends of Hue products.TL;DR: While technically an open system, we've closed it because $$$. These early adopters have already performed the heavy lifting on the compatibility end. They're the ones who have road-tested ZigBee-compliant bulbs and reported their findings to others. So, when a company removes support (by pushing a firmware update without prior warning) for compatible bulbs and claims the issue is "compatibility," it's so blatantly false as to be laughable. Unless you can't laugh, because you already bought one.
And Philips is apparently incredibly socially awkward. Trying to find which other bulbs are supported as "Friends of Hue" via Philips' websites is pointless. One just leads you to a page informing you that you can use Siri to control your lights. Searching for "Friends of Hue" brings you to another Philips website… which only lists products sold by Philips. In fact, while the "program" appears to allow third parties to sell products for its Hue line, it appears that every new development is sold under the Philips brand, which means that the competitiveness the phrase "Friends of Hue" implies is, in reality, no competition at all.
A walled garden is still a walled garden, no matter how beautifully lit it is. Philips has chosen to screw paying customers by locking them out of their choice of bulbs in pursuit of maximum profitability. There's nothing smart about that decision.