Recent revelations about Logitech’s line of “Harmony Link” home entertainment remotes have revealed that Logitech fully intends to abandon the old product line, effectively barring their paying customers from being able to use the hardware they have already invested in. While Logitech did offer their customers the ability to trade in their hardware for the new version that will be supported if they were under warranty, those outside of the warranty were given little consolation for them being abandoned by the peripheral giant.
Logitech is a company which, for a long time, has been synonymous with the words “mouse” and “keyboard” in the computer peripherals business. They’ve been one of the largest manufacturers of peripherals for the longest time, being a popular brand in both brick-and-mortar stores and online. Logitech has a rather strong following by the average computer user, an audience that is more interested in using the brand names rather than exploring other options to determine which will work the best for them. Logitech has certainly branched out into different directions, even delving into the home automation market.
The Cloud Culture
One of the most distressing patterns in the current technological climate lies in everything moving to the “cloud”. With more products storing their information on servers rather than keeping them local to the device, many customers are becoming uncomfortable with the idea of losing access to the product they paid for if they lose their Internet connection or if the company goes out of business. The Revolv hub served as a warning to those investing in cloud-based devices to consider other devices. While I think most would think about online games when thinking about “always online”, but a lot of devices require an Internet connectivity for them to work even if the actual function of the device doesn’t require an internet connection to operate correctly.
Let’s face it. When a device can no longer be used due to its discontinuation, that is a customer being abandoned. Logitech has effectively abandoned a portion of its customers to save money. With Logitech using the excuse of an expiring license preventing them from continuing operation of the device, why is Logitech not offering some sort of fix for the device to make it work without a connection to a specific server? Logitech should be held liable for any and all costs incurred due to customers having to switch from the Harmony Link to either Logitech’s newer offerings or competing products since they have created this issue to begin with. Logitech could either pony up the money for the license, or offer a firmware update that removes the requirement from the devices, giving their customers the ability to use the device even if it reduces some of the functionality.
There is no legal recourse for consumers buying these devices. These companies are offering a cloud-connected device without any explicitly implied warranty about the ability to use the device. This is more disturbing when you take into consideration that Logitech was selling these devices during a time when they were well aware that they would not continue to support them even as far as six months ago, offering a three-month warranty on refurbished versions of the device, ensuring that their customers would get minimal value for their cost only to be forced to buy a new product again.
Laws and regulations need to be set to force product manufacturers to support their devices for a specified amount of time and for any and all possibilities of a device becoming unusable disclosed in a warning directly placed on the box. This needs to be a risk that the customer is made aware of before they place their order for the device. There should be an agreement they must sign to understand that they could lose access, but the agreement needs to be clear and concise as to what they are agreeing to with it being made clear that after a specific date, there is no guarantee for the operation of the device. There needs to be clear financial and legal consequences for abandoning support for a device before a specified amount of time, ensuring that companies do not take advantage of their ability to abandon a product as a means to force their loyal customers to spend more money on newer versions of the hardware.
Planned obsolescence, which is what the Logitech Harmony Link is a victim of, should be a punishable offense and should be damned by the tech industry. There needs to be more transparency by device manufacturers and there needs to be more legal protections in place to allow for hardware purchases to make their money back when the product they have purchased is bricked by the manufacturer for financial reasons. This is theft at its core and is behavior unfitting of one of the leaders in computer peripherals.
Update: Logitech has backpeddled on this hard, publicly stating that they will offer free upgrades to all affected device owners. While this is great news for those device owners, I certainly wouldn’t want to stay within that ecosystem knowing that in the future they may choose to do this again and leave more people out in the dark. Consumers can only get outraged about something so many times before they just give up. Next time they might not be so fortunate.