After Spending A Day As The Internet's Punching Bag, Philips Walks Back Firmware Update That Locked Out Third-Party Products

from the hue-and-cry dept

Philips apparently wants more people to be "friends of Hue."

Philips pissed off its customer base by pushing out a firmware update that made non-"friends of Hue" light bulbs suddenly incompatible with its hubs (despite utilizing an open standard -- ZigBee). It claimed this stripping of functionality was in purchasers' best interests.

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.
Much to nobody's surprise, customers weren't happy when their compatible bulbs were instantly (and artificially) made incompatible by Philips. The only "guaranteed compatibility," according to Philips, was the use of Philips' products in Philps' fixtures. And just like that, the company turned an open standard (ZigBee) into a walled garden.

Multiple posts detailed customers' complaints about Philip's backhanded, self-serving firmware update. Philip's Hue Twitter account was flooded with angry tweets from former customers, current customers and people swearing to never purchase a Philips product ever again in the future.

Philips -- to its credit -- has apparently realized that putting profitability ahead of flexibility makes no one but Philips happy. And even then, it doesn't make Philips happy for long. It is now rolling back the light bulb-bricking firmware update and restoring support for third-party bulbs.
We recently upgraded the software for Philips Hue to ensure the best seamless connected lighting experience for our customers. This change was made in good faith. However, we under estimated the impact this would have on a small number of customers who use lights from other brands which could not be controlled by the Philips Hue software. In view of the sentiment expressed by our customers, we have decided to reverse the software upgrade so that lights from other brands continue to work as they did before with the Philips Hue system.

We are working on the reversal of the upgrade and will shortly confirm when this will be available.
Sure, there's some dodgy corporatespeak that attempts to portray this as an honest mistake made with the best of intentions, rather than what it appeared to be: a chance to cut competitors out of the market. But underneath all the deflection, there's an actual update on the way that will return the functionality the last firmware update removed. Unfortunately, it does appear that Philips will continue to use its own, more-"closed" version of ZigBee's open standard, meaning there will be compatibility issues in the future -- all of them related to Philips continuing to wall off its products.

The turnaround on this was surprisingly quick, but the sad fact is that it never needed to happen in the first place. The best course of action is one far too many companies seem only able to recognize in hindsight: don't screw over your customers -- especially your early adopters, who often act as evangelists for unproven tech and create lucrative markets for niche products. The additional income gained in the short term is rarely worth the loss of future sales and the accompanying damage to your reputation.


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  • identicon
    Michael, 16 Dec 2015 @ 10:50am

    No Hue. We cannot be friends again. I trusted you and was betrayed. You are going to have to find new friends now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 16 Dec 2015 @ 10:54am

    We recently upgraded the software for Philips Hue to ensure the best seamless connected lighting experience for our customers. This change was made in good faith. However, we under estimated the impact this would have on a small number of customers who use lights from other brands which could not be controlled by the Philips Hue software. In view of the sentiment expressed by our customers, we have decided to reverse the software upgrade so that lights from other brands continue to work as they did before with the Philips Hue system.

    We are working on the reversal of the upgrade and will shortly confirm when this will be available.


    I hope I get the reversal process sent to me while it is still daytime because I can't f***ing see to apply it at night.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 16 Dec 2015 @ 11:15am

    So one does wonder if some brave hacker will risk the Feds raiding them for checking to see if the new firmware is the same as the old firmware, or if they included some new code to make non-friends bulbs have a few more issues.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TechDescartes (profile), 16 Dec 2015 @ 11:17am

    Translation

    However, we under estimated the impact this would have on a small number of customers who use lights from other brands which could not be controlled by the Philips Hue software.
    No, no they didn't. They knew the impact: after the update, the third-party bulbs wouldn't work. At all. And the number of customers couldn't have been small. If it were, Phillips wouldn't have cared or needed to break the system in the first place and then fix it in the second place. And the third-party bulbs "could be controlled" until the firmware update. An accurate sentence would read:
    However, we under estimated the ... number of customers who use lights from other brands which could ... be controlled by the Philips Hue software.
    There. Fixed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 16 Dec 2015 @ 11:23am

    However, we under estimated the impact this would have on a small number of customers who use lights from other brands which could not be controlled by the Philips Hue software.

    So it runs on an open standard, but their software only runs with their system and not other systems on that open standard. That necessarily means their software is doing extra stuff that's not part of the open standard, in an attempt to make competitors who faithfully implement the standard look bad by comparison.

    Back in the 90s, we called that "embrace, extend and extinguish," and the people who pioneered the strategy got a major antitrust suit brought against them over it.

    Sometimes history repeating itself can be a good thing...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2015 @ 1:06pm

      Re:

      There is the possibility that the other providers of lightbulbs also use extentions for the standard, making their extentions incompatible with Phillips extentions.

      What Phillips seems to have done is releasing an update with a small bugfix and completely breaking a lot of earlier compatibility, without enough notice and with little consequence anaalysis. Even if it would pave the way for future upgrades to their system, that is a huge no go!

      When that is said, invoking the old microsoft strategy on them may be too much: Either they believed that they could embrace ---> extinguish and jump over the extend-part (The update had no real benefit shortterm: They had nothing to leverage it!) or they were screwing up. In this case I lean towards Heinleins Razor: Don't attribute to malice what can be adequately be explained by stupidity. The simplest explanation is always that someone screws up!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2015 @ 1:45pm

      Re:

      So, J++

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2015 @ 11:41am

    Had some interaction with the Hue team

    and I can't say I'm surprised. They are mostly clueless, don't really understand the ecosystem concept (or anything about openness) and were generally surprised when the Hue was a success. The Hue was a pet project by a very small group of engineers and success has caused all the clueless suits to want a piece of the action...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 16 Dec 2015 @ 11:44am

    When are they going to come out with a connected faucet? Manually turning the knobs on the sink is too much trouble! I need to be able to control the water from a smartphone!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2015 @ 12:18pm

    Well I guess the previous update wasn't a bright idea.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2015 @ 12:37pm

    How many...

    How many engineers does it take to root a lightbulb?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Molly (profile), 16 Dec 2015 @ 12:43pm

    First the lightbulbs

    ...next the Kuerig coffee makers that will only work with Kuerig approved pods.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2015 @ 12:49pm

    good intentions

    "Sure, there's some dodgy corporatespeak that attempts to portray this as an honest mistake made with the best of intentions..."

    But it WAS done with the best of intentions - profit. They intended to increase their profit! That's my personal intention too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2015 @ 12:59pm

    You would have to be one of the biggest fools to trust a company again after it pulled a trick like this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 16 Dec 2015 @ 9:56pm

      Re:

      Oh come on now, just because they stabbed their customers in the back once, surely they learned their lesson and will never do it again, right? I mean, they almost apologized, that's got to count for something, doesn't it? /s

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2015 @ 2:09pm

    uncannilly honest

    reversal of the upgrade


    I for one, find this uncannilly honest. Unlike, weasel words like 'it failed to take some corner cases into account'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2015 @ 2:24pm

    I put a Keurig pod into the light socket, and

    the damn thing shorted out!

    These guys make one heck of a coffee roaster...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    alternatives(), 16 Dec 2015 @ 2:31pm

    Well then, I know what product to NOT buy

    Besides the security problem Philips had a few years ago I now have a REALLY good reason to not buy their product.

    Good job in letting me know the kind of company you are Philips.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    alternatives(), 16 Dec 2015 @ 2:41pm

    Sylvania Lightify

    The Lightify people seem to be willing to work with others based on the list at the end of http://www.sylvania.com/en-us/lightify/Pages/default.aspx Even Amazon. (Wemo, smart things, wink, that Google-Nest)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2015 @ 3:13pm

    Doomed

    Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Look at IBM, Xerox, and many other companies that tried to limit competition by building walled gardens. Every damn one of them either failed or were brought up on Sherman Act charges by the FTC. One would think they would have learned by now...but maybe not. Ignorance is curable, stupidity is not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2015 @ 3:31pm

    Once a company starts down this path, the mentality is set. You can no longer be sure when you purchase one of their products if it will work in other fixtures, appliances, or products. What you can nearly be sure of is it won't say so on the box or the lettering if it does will require a microscope to read. If it works today, it may not work tomorrow as the kick off example of this demonstrated.

    The very best way to deal with these uncertainties is to never buy a product from that company again because you can't trust them to make products that just work all the time without restrictions. Typically when they restrict to just their approved items, they are always more expensive but don't always have improvements worth the extra money.

    I already have some companies that have done such before that will never see a dime of my money because I will walk out the store before I will buy from those company products that have done similar before. Philips has been added to that list and it is doubtful it will ever come off again. Call me a lost customer for life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2015 @ 4:18pm

    small number

    few things piss me off more than lying. we know it wasn't a small number from how hard they are inhaling.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2015 @ 7:48pm

    Just wait until refrigerators that turn off if generic brand food is placed inside.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 17 Dec 2015 @ 12:55am

    Decline and Fall

    "Internet of Things" almost always involves situations where a more appropriate response is feedback-- eg. a thermostat-- rather than network connectivity. For lighting, a combination of photo-cells and infrared motion sensors is a good choice, and enables lights to switch on and off automatically without any attention. However, a self-contained feedback-driven device is not very profitable to the manufacturer-- precisely because it does not have networking issues. People can go on using a device they bought twenty years ago. Or they can go to the Salvation Army store, and get something which someone else bought twenty years ago. One cannot talk about "Internet of Things" without using the word "Fanboy." And of course you know the purpose for which Fanboys exist, in order to have what done to them.

    Computers, the internet, and electronics generally are going through a process of diminishing returns. For a given level of bits per second, or a given level of portability, the most important and valuable things were done first. Thirty-five years ago, spending a few thousand dollars, and getting a computer meant getting a word processor, and not having to re-type manuscripts. Now, spending a lot of money on a computer means getting a machine which is basically useful for playing shoot-em-up games. The two big internet issues at this point are copyright reform and internet service monopoly reform. In both cases, the problem is that an obsolete monopoly privilege prevents one from doing things which would otherwise be trivially inexpensive. At any rate, this produces a mental climate of desperation in the computer/internet/electronics industry, a sense that they cannot expect to make an honest living for very much longer.

    People like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are getting fixated about space ships and mars colonies, because they have reached a terrifying point where they look at themselves-- and there is nothing there.
    Bill Gates had the good sense to become a philanthropist and worry about real problems like poverty, hunger, and disease.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      mermaldad (profile), 18 Dec 2015 @ 3:51pm

      Re: Decline and Fall

      Now, spending a lot of money on a computer means getting a machine which is basically useful for playing shoot-em-up games.


      ...or doing 3D CAD, animation, video production, music production, bitcoin mining, machine learning, or simulate protein folding for medical research. The fact that many people don't do much with their machines beyond playing games doesn't mean the technology has reached diminishing returns.

      I used to be dismissive of gamers until I realized that their pursuit of better frame rates and more realistic rendering had created a market that had outpaced the makers of scientific workstations costing ten times as much.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kronomex, 17 Dec 2015 @ 1:31am

    "We got sprung for trying to pull a swiftie with our product line and now we're going to bullshit our way, without issuing any sort of apology, out of the situation."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Monday (profile), 17 Dec 2015 @ 11:13am

    Good Faith. WTF is Good Faith???

    It seems to me the general assumption is, "if you buy or use our product, we can do 'stuff' to you in Good Faith".

    I can probably say a general acceptance of this policy was when U2's newest album was downloaded into half a billion telephones without user permission.

    Sure, SONY went with rootkits, a few years back, that destroyed twelve and half million computers and their ability to make any kind of DVD/CD/R-RW ever - and I've researched the shit out of this problem, and the only fix is a new machine, because Micro$oft is by no means helpful with sending out the MPEG fix that is so sorely needed; nope, no way in hell.

    Then, or more appropriately, now Micro$oft going with their version of made in good faith, and is forcing user machines to becomes useless pieces of crap by installing machines with Windows 10 OS and updates without permission - you really need to read the 50 plus pages of details you sign on for with that one.

    NOW, Phillips is trying to 'splane the thang' by this being a reaction to their firmware destruction that was "made in good faith" and "they made a mistake in consumer reaction" in forcing users to accept or go without what they produce.

    The "made in good faith" argument is more the status quo than any hypothetical reaction they could have ever imagined - it is the perfect excuse to fuck with our lives in ways we are barely able imagine.

    I'm just saying... "made in good faith" is fuckin gay!!! and I blame it all on Edward Snowden!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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