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Do video hardware product drivers really have to live behind a registration wall?

You can't use hardware without drivers so why not make the download easy?

By Scott Simmons | May 13, 2014

Not to jump onto a soapbox here but I’ve had two instances in the last week or so of product drivers hidden behind registration walls that has prompted this post. On the surface this seems like not such a big deal as one would think that a registered hardware product would be a simple sign-in and download. But what if you haven’t registered that product? Or have forgotten your log-in details? Or what if that hardware isn’t yours?

Let’s pause for a second and think about software. It makes sense for a self-contained software download to be behind a registration and log-in wall since software is something that you download and use on your computer without any other products to be attached or purchased. Whether that software is free or paid you can’t have the download link out in the free and clear for everyone to download.

But if you think about that nature of a hardware product driver it’s totally different. The driver itself is really useless without that attached hardware it is designed to work with. And often if you’re looking for a hardware driver it’s a time sensitive thing as you want to get it installed and get to work using the hardware as quickly as possible. It’s very frustrating to be looking for those hardware drivers and then being stopped dead in your tracks when the vendor asks you to log-in before downloading.

I’m sure there is that argument that a vendor wants to track exactly who is downloading their software and how many times it has been accessed but they should be able to count those downloads without requiring a registration. If you want to know who the customers are then you should be able to get that through the basic product registration. If you’re going to buy a multi-hundred or thousand dollar hardware product you’re going to register it for warranty and support purposes.

Avid EuControl software

I hit this wall twice in the last couple of weeks. The first was when I borrowed an Avid Artist Color control surface from a school where I was teaching. The panel hadn’t even been turned on in what I’m guessing was a couple of years so I wanted to bring it to my suite and get it up and running (as well as use it on a job).

Finding the page to download the driver was the easy part (it’s an important software download as it’s the EuControl package which is more than a single driver) as a Google search for avid artist color driver took me right to the page.

But then the click beyond that on the software I needed took me to a log-in page. My universal Avid website log-in would not take me in. Not the end of the world as there was a registration button at the bottom. But going to that page asks for a serial number, where purchased and date purchased. And really, do you need a phone number? Thankfully Twitter came to the rescue as someone was able to pass off the installer download.

Matrox MXO 2 Mini software

With Matrox it was the wonderful world of Google that also took me right to their driver page by searching “matrox mxo 2 mini driver.” They have a very nice support download page that uses a left to right column table to help find exactly what you are looking for.

Once you drilled down into the driver software you want you can see all previous versions as well as a description of each. This description is nice as the MXO products in particular have to support a lot of different NLEs and a lot of different OS versions and Matrox lists all those versions in a detailed way.

But when you hit go you’re presented with a log-in page instead of a download page. There is a place on that log-in page for a Serial Number but unfortunately it’s not as easy as just looking at the hardware and typing it in as you are asked to register that serial number before getting the driver. Any typing a random, fake serial gets you nowhere.

With any of these products shouldn’t the burden of registering the product be on the user rather than forcing that user to register and log-in just to download the driver to use the product? Any video professional spending money to make money with these products is going to register their hardware for support, update and warranty purposes. I have a dedicated email address just for this purpose. What if someone borrows a piece of hardware but then can’t get the driver to use it? A vendor just might have lost a new sale if that means the borrower can’t even see how the product works.

Hardware makers should take a cue from AJA and Blackmagic.

Google something as generic as AJA driver and you’re a couple of clicks and a couple of seconds away from a download link.

A few clicks into the Blackmagic Design support site and you have the option of registering and download the driver of choice or Download Now without supplying anything. That seems like the best of both worlds.

I’m sure that some vendor reply would be that they just can’t have these software drivers out in the open for anyone to get with one click of a Google search. Beyond the argument that they want to know who is downloading what drivers for which products exactly when … maybe they don’t want their competitors download them. We all know if a competitor wants to get a driver all they have to do is buy one of their competitor’s products which they most certainly do anyway. If it’s web-crawling robots you’re worried about get a captcha or something to verify the downloader is a human.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to think this is a silly policy that only serves to frustrate users.

 

 

Maybe a vendor will chime in via the comments below and tell us why this policy exists. But I doubt they will change it.

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Comments

AndrewSmith: | May, 17, 2014

It may be a justifiable rant, but it hardly survives practical experience.  Is it too hard for someone to read the serial number for their hardware?  And of course you’re going to be rejected if you type in a fake/garbage number.  If anything it displays good governance by companies such as Matrox with regards to the quality of the data in their customer databases.

With the Matrox hardware (I’m an MXO2 owner), people in your worst case scenario have left a message in the general public section of the forums and the Matrox staff have promptly sorted out any issues, connecting them with the required download.

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