So, I have a Gtablet…

So, Viewsonic have a support forum located on Facebook (wtf? why not have it on their site?!)

I’m going to go through and bold a few things, that I found interesting, and/or important…

They posted the following (at http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=58738271675&topic=18712 )

Welcome to the ViewSonic gTablet Discussion Forum. Here you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive via our social media channels. As part of our mission to exceed customer expectations with superior products, service and industry knowledge, it is our pleasure to launch this new forum in which to address the concerns of our valued Facebook friends and followers.

The gTablet launched in November 2010 as an exciting 1st generation tablet, positioning ViewSonic as an early player in the emerging tablet market. We were one of the first companies to recognize the potential of the tablet computer, and today ViewSonic offers a wide range of tablet products for every need and budget. The ViewSonic gTablet was and still is a great tablet, and one of the first to use nVidia’s Tegra chipset technology. We continue to stand by our product, which boasts excellent hardware specifications to this day.

In response to concerns about the origin of the gTablet, we would like to point out that, in today’s market it is common for brand companies to enlist the help of 3rd-party developers, manufacturers and distributors. This is often necessary given the fast pace and ever changing technology within the consumer electronics market. This past year has seen phenomenal growth in the tablet market, along with many new product features and capabilities.

In effort to move the market forward even faster, Google and many silicon suppliers have changed their roadmaps and shifted their priorities to focus on future tablet platforms. This includes establishing minimum hardware specs that 1st generation tablets often times do not meet. As a result, silicon companies have assigned their limited software resources on the new platforms and are not providing software driver support for legacy platforms.

We have heard rumors that ViewSonic has dropped support for the gTablet. This is by no means true, and it is this question we would like to address in this post.

The gTablet product is and always will be supported by ViewSonic. The product was advertised and sold as an Android 2.2 tablet and we continue to support it as such. ViewSonic continues to provide technical and warranty support for the gTablet and the Android 2.2 operating system that was installed and running out of the box. You may contact our gTablet support center at (310) 228-4000, or visit http://www.viewsonic.com/gtablet/support.htm for further information.

Support may also include software updates to correct major bugs and shortcomings that were not apparent at product launch.

In response to customer feedback, we released over-the-air the updates addressing major concerns – the first update was released in late December 2010 and the most recent was in April 2011. These updates included performance enhancements, the ability to toggle between the Tap n Tap UI and a standard Android home screen, and Adobe Flash support. Such software updates help us ensure that the product functions as advertised. ViewSonic product support does not include major operating system software upgrades.

gTablet enthusiasts and members of the Android development community have compiled experimental software builds which may enable Android 3.x (aka Honeycomb) operating systems to run on the gTablet. Our research indicates that these builds remain relatively unstable. Furthermore, the attempt to install a custom ROM may result in serious complications up to and including rendering the device unusable. Overwriting the system image to install a new operating system on the gTablet will void your warranty and cannot be encouraged or supported by ViewSonic.

Unlike previous versions of Android, Honeycomb has not been released as open source software. Google maintains tighter control over the code than they have in the past. This means that ViewSonic cannot distribute Android versions 3.x without licensing and product certification from Google. This was never part of our product plan for the gTablet. In releasing the gTablet with hardware well ahead of its time, ViewSonic may have set certain unrealistic expectations; the gTablet was never advertised as or intended to be anything other than an Android 2.2 tablet. Our product development efforts are presently focused on future platforms designed specifically for Honeycomb and later Android versions.

ViewSonic will continue to support the gTablet Android 2.2 tablet while we work with our technology partners to deliver next generation tablets that provide even greater performance and capabilities.

So, I have a few issues with this whole thing. First of all, it’s buried on some Facebook page. The only reason why I happened across it was that I was looking on their page for the open source kernel, which, by the way device manufacturers, if your device is a tegra, stop fucking touching shit in other arches with your patches. But that is off topic. So they have this “support” forum, where they basically say, hey, we released the device with 2.2, we don’t know what would cause you to expect more.

Here’s the thing. Their latest release was in April 2011. If you go to http://www.viewsonic.com/gtablet/support.htm You can’t even download the update. It is all done “ota” (over the air); So herein lies the issue. They pushed out a broken release, which was available for ~24 hours. This version was (approximately) 4349. This one actually broke Hi Def video playback. You can’t download the older release (from Viewsonic), and if you happen to have to RMA your device for any reason, 4349 is what gets installed. That’s right. If you have any issue with your machine (similar to what I did where the screen stopped working) they will install “the latest” version, which breaks the video playback (yay!) So this release was in April some time, and for the people unfortunate enough to have gotten it, (or those of us who got it because it was installed at RMA time) there is no recourse.

But they claim they support the device. Viewsonic’s definition of supporting a device is the same as Google’s definition of supporting a web service. In other words, there’s a forum somewhere, but no one from the company bothers to actually read or check or offer actual assistance. The difference is, I paid Viewsonic 400 dollars for the privilege of using their hardware, and I don’t pay Google anything, unless you count all my person information for the past 8 years (Gmail user since 2004.)

So to go through the bold points: First, this whole “industry” standard of dropping support for hardware as soon as it’s out the door has to stop. If you really want customer loyalty, you need to stick by your designs and devices. With Viewsonic, they released the Gtablet, and were pulled, not because they “stopped supporting them” but because of a high return rate! Did no one at Viewsonic step back and say whoa, guys (and gals) we’re getting a high return rate, let’s find out why and fix that issue. Apparently not, apparently they released a new tablet. For a long time, they were telling people who requested support to go to the XDA forums until Roebeet told them to stop, since he was just a custom ROM developer, and not a customer service forum. Now there’s some company in Beverly Hills, CA who does the support, that… tells people to go to the XDA forums, or tells people who complain about the hi def video, “hey, at least it is usable for other things!” Seriously? What kind of support is this?

The first two bold points seem almost in conflict… If the hardware “boasts excellent hardware specifications to this day”, how exactly is it legacy? Because it only has 512MB of RAM versus 1GB of RAM? That is a differentiation between legacy and modern!?

They also state that they “are not providing software driver support for legacy platforms”, however then they state “The product was advertised and sold as an Android 2.2 tablet and we continue to support it as such.” Except they don’t, because hi def video has been broken for over 4 months.

“Support may also include software updates to correct major bugs and shortcomings that were not apparent at product launch.” How about major bugs and shortcomings that were introduced *by* software updates?

“ViewSonic product support does not include major operating system software upgrades.” Okay, this I don’t actually have as much a problem with, I mean, I don’t expect my computer to come with free Windows updates for life. The iPhone on the other hand, I kind of do, since you know, Apple controls the ecosystem as well as the software updates…. kind of like Viewsonic should. This tablet is *8 months old* in product time on market (disclaimer: might be older now!) yet it is considered legacy!?

“Our research indicates that these builds remain relatively unstable.” Okay, this, this is where we start running into issues. See, if you install a custom ROM, you void the warranty. Except here’s the rub, Viewsonic POINTED PEOPLE TO THE XDA FORUMS FOR SUPPORT WHERE THAT WAS THE COURSE OF ACTION! So essentially, Viewsonic were TELLING people to void their warranty. There has to be something wrong there, maybe there isn’t, but it sure seems fishy to me. Not to mention, of course the builds are relatively unstable. The great thing about Android is that while some parts of it are GPL and open source, the vast majority of the system is closed and proprietary, which means companies can do whatever they want, and not have to provide that back to the community that they used to build their system. I understand that, I even agree with it for the most part. But to tell people that the builds are unstable while not doing anything to help out, is just mind boggling. These developer communities around custom ROMs are what keep most sales going of these devices. So embrace the community that is helping to bring more revenue in to your company. It is also kind of disheartening as a developer, since you know, we’re doing the best we can with what these companies are throwing over their walls, which isn’t much.

“In releasing the gTablet with hardware well ahead of its time, ViewSonic may have set certain unrealistic expectations; the gTablet was never advertised as or intended to be anything other than an Android 2.2 tablet. Our product development efforts are presently focused on future platforms designed specifically for Honeycomb and later Android versions.”

Okay, what I get out of this statement here is…. “SUCK IT!” I’m sorry but there is a saying, and it’s pretty famous because a former president got the saying wrong, so most people in the US know it pretty well. That saying goes “Fool me once, shame on you, Fool me twice, shame on me.” Personally, I won’t be fooled. I will never buy another tablet from Viewsonic, and I would strongly advise anyone considering one to think again.

Now, all of these things said, there are a few deeper issues. One is the Google angle. The Google license for Honeycomb is, interesting, to say the least. See, they won’t work with smaller manufacturing companies for it (minimum something like 1.5 million units?). They like to work with people who are manufacturing the chips. That would be Samsung, TI, Freescale, nVidia, and I’m sure I’m missing a couple others, but for those most part, it’s those main companies. Here’s the thing, IF you happened to get a Honeycomb license, you would have access to the source code. So do the above named companies, and they can share the code with you, because you have the license. However, IF you don’t have a license, even though you’re using their chips to make an Android device, you CANNOT access Honeycomb. Which could be what Viewsonic is running into, and why they won’t release Honeycomb on the Gtablet. Though they are working on it for later tablets, there’s no real reason not to. The differences being 512MB of RAM and different screen size(s), which is just a few minor changes, and guess what, it’s *really* easy to make a git branch! The other issue that all of these custom ROM developers have is, even though for example, the AOSP (that would be Android Open Source Platform) has all of the GPL code checked in, MANY things WILL NOT work because they rely on the proprietary and binary only software. Great open source citizenship there Goog!

My frustration with my tablet knows no bounds. The high return rates were due to the custom interface that Viewsonic insists on using. Also the fact that they don’t include the Android Marketplace makes it really feel like it was put together by a bunch of amateurs (considering the fact that most amateurs *do* include Android Marketplace, I’m not sure how best to put that statement!) instead of an actual company that makes and supports an Android device.

I have always been an nVidia fanboy. I’ve used them exclusively (until about a week ago!) ever since I had a bad issue with ATI back in 2002. That’s 10 years of ATI not getting my support, and I have no problem with never buying from Viewsonic, this experience has definitely left a bad taste in my mouth.

I’ve been considering writing my own custom ROM, but I’d rather help out some enterprising users that are already doing so. The main reason being that since the company I work for is both small, and global, my work day starts at 8am, and ends around 4am (mostly because they insist that I get some sleep!) So I don’t have as much free time as I would like, but since I absolutely *love* my job, it isn’t a complaint, it’s just stating a reason why I don’t have as much time. The reason why I want to help is because it is extremely apparent that Viewsonic intend to do nothing to support this device, and I’d like to actually use the hardware to it’s potential. It would be like getting an Intel Core i7 and then installing DOS on it to use, if I were to continue using the stock ROM.

I find it unfortunate that it has come to this, that people who use devices actually have to look outside the company that manufactures a device in order to have a USABLE device, and I just don’t quite understand the mentality of a company that expects you to buy their next device when they support it so horribly. This could be in part because of how much our bosses at Genesi ingrain customer support into us. We have meetings twice a week to discuss issues. Not complaint goes un-noticed or dismissed. No bug report gets ignored (forgotten at times sure, but they get brought back up in the meetings!) and most of all, keep the customers happy!

Edit because I just now was re-reading this and noticed the following in the opening statement:

As part of our mission to exceed customer expectations with superior products, service and industry knowledge I’m sorry but stating that your hardware will only do the bare minimum (and not even come close to living up to the hardware’s potentional…. well, that isn’t attempting to exceed customer expectations. If anything, that’s attempting to underwhelm customer expectations. The product is a whole thing. It isn’t just a monitor, it isn’t just the hardware of the tablet (although based on my readings, it looks more like the Gtablet is just a re-branded Malata ZPad, I could be wrong though) it is the ENTIRE package. If you product is inferior, and you know it’s inferior, and you are complacent with that fact, then you aren’t even coming close to living up to your mission statement.

~ by steev on August 2, 2011.

3 Responses to “So, I have a Gtablet…”

  1. Lets not forget they delete peoples posts with legitimate concerns over their lack of customer support.

  2. To be fair, I don’t know the contents of the deleted comments, which is why I didn’t mention them. If they are saying certain derogatory statements, then I can somewhat understand it, but if it’s just a complaint, definitely a bad thing.

  3. Trust me, they were only complaints about their lack of support of their device. I think they decided to wipe me out because I was taking it to their FB wall as well as in that discussion. I used no foul language at all.

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