You've probably seen this happen in hardware or game forums before: the company behind the forums does something that upsets the user base, and people chime in, saying how they will never buy so-and-so product again. Well this happening to the extreme right now, on the forums of sound card, speakers (and other things) maker Creative Labs.
The public relations fiasco started just this last weekend. A man who worked on drivers for Creative sound cards as a hobby was known to be a savior of the community: unlike official Creative releases, his Vista drivers actually worked. So people loved him; his forum name was Daniel_K and legions of Creative card owners would thank him, after using his drivers, after having numerous troubles with Creative's own releases. Personally, I own a Sound Blaster X-Fi, and never had any troubles using it in XP; but judging from time spent in Creative's forums, their Vista drivers were substandard in many cases, preventing many customers from fully utilizing their sound cards (or using them at all, for that matter.) In a perfect world, you would think that Creative would have been happy to have a dedicated smart guy working on their drivers in his own time -- but this is not a perfect world.
Phil O'Shaughnessy, the VP of Corporate Communications for Creative Labs, sent a letter to Daniel_K, asking him to refrain from posting, or working on, his drivers anymore: "...we are asking you to respect our legal rights in this matter and cease all further unauthorized distribution of our technology and IP." Mr. O'Shaughnessy cited legal obligations that prevent 3rd parties from working on their drivers, because they contain code that is licensed from other companies.
Daniel_K agreed to not work on the drivers anymore.
Then the forums exploded.
In a matter of a few hours, propelled to the public's eye thanks to news aggregates such as Digg.com, legions upon legions of Creative card owners chimed in. Most signed up to the forum just to say how they would never ever buy a Creative card again, and how choked they were that Creative released sub-standard Vista drivers for far too long. Many smelt a conspiracy, suggesting that Creative purposely was limiting the functionality of their cards in order to encourage a enforced obsolesce on their products -- so people would be forced to buy new cards.
The forum thread is continually growing; it is currently up to 200 pages of pure vitriol and anger over Creative's move. Here is one of the thousands of posts: "I've bought $1000 worth of Creative products going back to the Soundblaster 16 including speakers and a DVD Rom. I was going to buy the XFi to replace my Audigy 2 ZS on my next build. At a critical time for the company, with descrete sound cards being a dying breed, Creative needs the enthusiast market. So why go and kick us in the teeth?"
In less than 24 hours, a boycottcreative.com website has appeared. [April 3rd edit: Reference to Newegg posting on Creatives forum deleted, as this has been confirmed as a illegitimate (see comments below.)]
Afternoon update: There has been some forum chatter about filing a class action lawsuit against Creative Labs, because they have been putting 'Vista Ready' stickers on their sound card boxes, when in fact, the sound cards do not run well in Vista (according to numerous reports.) Creative might be taking the threat of a class action lawsuit over false advertising seriously, as they recently appended the following message onto the bottom of their website's forums: "Pricing, product specifications and availibility are subject to change without notice. Package contents may vary according to the different regions." Adding further evidence to the fact that this message was added in haste (perhaps panic), is that they spelled 'availability' incorrectly. (Pointed out by forum guy MJC420. And thanks for linking to Neoseeker, Palewook.)
April 2 update: It appears Creative might be back-tracking slightly now, in thanks to the public outrage. While it looks like the popular Vista drivers aren't coming back, a 'Audigy Support Pack' the brings stuff like DVD Audio and Hardware MIDI to the discontinued Audigy line is coming back.
While Creative's beef with Daniel_K's drivers may legitimately be that the drivers include IP that they can not distribute, they are having a very poor time communicating this with their customers, or making and conciliatory agreements with the sound card using masses. The pent-up displeasure with Creative and its "weaksauce" drivers continues to flow through the official forums.
Further update: Daniel_K spoke to Wired magazine, and gave a detailed list of all the stuff Creative did to limit the functionality of their products, and his thoughts on the situation. For instance, you can basically update your Audigy cards to the functionality of and X-Fi cards by using his modded drivers. While the physical hardware is very similar across the different series of sound cards, it was the Creative drivers that said xxx function would, or would not, be activated.
"Creative purposedly modified the Audigy drivers to disable some features when Vista is detected and also purposedly introduced some bugs to prevent some XP utilities from running," Daniel_K says, in one part of his letter.