Philips: When your upgrade is a downgrade 

Not all updates are upgrades. Sometimes they are, in fact, downgrades. In Philips’ messy divorce case the customer is the victim.

It’s always a joy to install an update. A happy jumping icon announces the arrival of new features to your phone, TV set or computer. Download and extract, a gift to the loyal customer.
Not all updates are upgrades. Sometimes they are, in fact, downgrades.
Owners of a home entertainment system or Philips Blu-ray player are receiving such a bizarre downgrade this month. They lose their Smart TV apps to view streaming video services like Netflix and Youtube. Their gadget, connected to the internet, suddenly fails in one of its main tasks. It’s like buying a car and a Volkswagen employee secretly steals one wheel. Just one. And good luck with it, sir.

A messy divorce

Why the downgrade? Philips, the Dutch technology gigant that once pioneered in cd and dvd technology, wanted to get out of the consumer electronics business.
It licensed the Philips brand in two separate deals: tv sets (sold to TP Vision in 2011) and audio and video appliances (sold to Woox/Gibson). That company - famous for its guitars and audio gear with a Gibson logo - apparently did not license Philips’ own Smart TV software. That software is still available in Philips TV sets, now being built by TP Vision.
It’s a messy divorce case and the customer is the victim.

Gibson did try its best to create a compelling story.

In order to ensure the core functionality, performance and compatibility, Gibson Innovations has embedded a new version of Smart TV to multiple product models. (…) Consumers can still access most formerly available applications via the embedded web browser.

That doesn’t work at all, says an angry user on Dutch tech blog Tweakers. And he’s not the only one.

Gibson says it doesn’t know how many users are affected. Probably hundreds of thousands: the downgrade is being pushed to a long list of media players that Philips sold between 2010 and 2014, all over the world. Some of them are still available in the online store.
How many people have complained to Gibson about this downgrade, the company doesn’t want to share either.  Complainants might get a compensation though: a replacement device (probably a Google Chromecast) or a voucher for the Philips store.

Four lessons

There are a few lessons in this bizarre upgrade.

Lesson 1: When you buy a connected device, you don’t really own it. In the era of Video 2000 appliances were broken by a short circuit or a blown fuse because the dog peed on it. Now it is the software breaking down, controlled by a remote server.

Lesson 2: Be careful with devices carrying a Philips logo. In the Netherlands, Philips still has a good reputation in consumer electronics (especially their Smart TV apps) but the new licensees might have a different approach to customer satisfaction and ease of use.
Lesson 3: When that happy bouncing icon announces an update, do not install it immediately. Wait for a couple of weeks for other users to share their unhappy experiences.
Lesson 4: Start complaining. Stalk the help desk, post on Twitter and on user forums. Tell everyone your device does not do what it is supposed to do. Whining usually pays off. It gives you some relief, at least. And maybe a free Google Chromecast.

(read the Dutch version)