If We Feel Like It . . .

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Today’s article was going to talk network cards, and how in many cases, you can’t even assume that all makes of a model number has a Vista driver.

For instance, DLink got around to making some beta drivers for a few of its wireless cards. However, for a few of those, they list the model number, then one of the revisions of that model.

So the DWL-G650 is listed as DWL-G650 (rev.C), which makes you wonder about rev.A and B. Turns out that if you have either rev.B or C of the card, you have at least a beta Vista driver, but if you have rev.A, you’re out of luck.

So much for early adopters.

DLink isn’t the only one doing this. Netgear actually does this quite a bit more, though, unlike DLink, they at least tell you when they’re not going to do it. So if you have a WGR614, versions 1-5, you’re dead, but if you have version 6, here’s your driver.

I could go on and on, but there’s a much bigger issue here than which company did or didn’t write a driver for a product.

The real issue is that the policy for writing Vista drivers for hardware manufacturers seems to be “If we feel like it.” There’s no rhyme or reason or explanation as to why Product A gets a driver and Product B doesn’t.

For instance, take the LaserJet II. The printer will celebrate its twentieth birthday next month. Want a Vista 64-bit driver? No problem.

On the other hand, the HP Color LaserJet 1500 is less than four years old. No Vista for you, but if you had bought the Color LaserJet 2500 the year before, no problem.

Being recent equipment helps, but is no guarantee you’ll find a driver for it. How would you feel if you just bought, say, a pre-N wireless adapter, only to find out there’s no Vista driver for it yet? Such products exist.

The more I look at this, the more disgusted I get. Reasonable people can disagree on the length of time a company should provide driver support for a product, but no reasonable person can argue that “if we feel like it” is a good policy.

“If we feel like it” smacks of arrogance, of lack of accountability, of disrespect to the customer. It says to the person left out in the cold, “We don’t owe you anything, not even an explanation.”

The problem isn’t that current policy is inadequate, the problem is that there’s no policy at all. There’s no equivalent of a warranty for driver support, and there ought to be. After all, the lack of a driver makes a piece of equipment just as dead to the user as a short-circuit.

Yes, there could be technical reasons for a piece of equipment not to function in a new OS, and the older the equipment, the more likely that is to happen, but that’s not often going to be the case for equipment less than, say, five years old, and when that’s the case, doesn’t the customer deserve an explanation as to why he or she is going to have to junk the equipment? Right now, too many places aren’t even admitting that X won’t work with Vista, they just list the stuff that does.

If that’s what you call “accentuating the positive,” you can keep it.

Would it be so unreasonable for hardware manufacturers to set a policy where they say, “We’ll supply functional drivers whenever technically possible on our equipment for at least, say, five years?”

Or will the government have to make them do it?

Ed


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