Proprietary Hardware

This weekend got me thinking about proprietary hardware and how much of a total loss of value it is to consumers.

As I mentioned earlier, I spent most of this weekend moving to a new apartment. While I never double-checked the validity of the claim, the housing company stated that the only internet that could be provided would be from AT&T, e.g. U-Verse. Okay, fine. AT&T ended up mailing me their modem/router combo and was going to add $100 deposit + a monthly lease for equipment, which I attempted to decline (since I already own a modem & router). AT&T mailed one anyway, which I slapped a return sticker on and sent back Friday. When I went to hook up my modem on Sunday, a growing sense of horror enveloped me as I realized that a CAT5 cable would not fit into the installed plug. Uh oh.

Thank god for smartphones, eh?

After several fruitless Google searches for, in retrospect, impossible things like phone jack -> Coaxial cable adapters, I came to understand that AT&T utilizes their own proprietary internet hardware. This was further confirmed at Best Buy (hey, I was desperate) when the DSL modem I was looking at stated that it would work with AT&T DSL but not U-Verse. I ended up going to a AT&T store but they didn’t carry any of the U-Verse equipment with them and would have to order it to be re-shipped. Lesson learned: make sure your shit works before sending anything back.

What this reminded me of though is memory cards.

Any time I kinda sorta maybe get the urge to bite on a PlayStation Vita sale, the reality of proprietary memory cards that damn near cost the same as the system itself always shocks me back to reality. Right now, a 32gb Vita memory card is $69.81 on Amazon. Do you know how much a 32gb MicroSD card is? $20.22. Shit, you can get a 64gb for $38.60. Is there anything extra you get for buying Sony? Nope. It is a total fucking loss for you to purchase a Vita memory card other than the fact that Sony forces you to buy into their bullshit proprietary technology, which is itself just a more-expensive version of ineffectual DRM.

And just let me say how much a regret buying a Google Nexus smartphone these days. At the time, getting an unlocked $250 smartphone was my overriding concern, but the biggest model I bought is clocking in at… 16gb. Of which you can use 12.92gb. And hey, I’m sure it’s just a huge coincidence that the majority of these phone manufacturers don’t have expandable storage options and yet multiple models with differing levels of internal storage. I mean, seriously, how much space/weight/battery juice does a phone actually lose by having the MicroSD slot? Shit, is it too much to ask for a $20.22 32gb MicroSD card to be built into the damn thing? Proprietary hardware strikes again, at zero benefit to the consumer.

I understand the logic, to an extent. Proprietary hardware is sort of an enforced patent, the sort of difference between a brand-name pharmaceutical drug and the later generic version. But in electronics and gaming, we hardly ever get non-proprietary hardware (controllers and Game Genies aside). Talking myself out of a Vita purchase the other day almost resulted in talking myself into a PSP purchase solely on the basis of ROMs, at which point I started to wonder why Nintendo (or anyone, really) never bothered with a handheld that could officially play SNES (etc) games. Or did they and I haven’t noticed? I know about the Wii’s virtual console and Sony’s PS+ deal with some older PSX games, but it almost seems like a no-brainer for some company to swoop in with a fully open-source, Vita-like handheld that can load ROMs and be an otherwise premier ROM target. I mean, it certainly seems like the smartphone market never quite got there all the way.

Posted on May 6, 2014, in Miscellany and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Didn’t you get the memo?
    Free market and competition guarantee the optimal and cheapest solution!

    Or at least they would if it weren’t for government interference granting monopolies like patents. But hey, without patent protection nobody would invent anything for fear of being ripped off!

    *head explodes* :)

    …and thank God (or any related entity of your choice) for the 21-in-1 USB memory card readers….


    • Yeah, the whole thing is goofy. In a world which Monster Cables is still a thing, I’m sure these companies would be fine. Brand names carry cachet even when they have zero objective reason to.


    • The lack of prices on the first link is weirding me out, but thanks for the second. I actually remember hearing about the the portable emulator thing when it first came out several year ago, and might look into it a bit more closely.


  2. The lack of external storage on nexus devices is… kind of weird. The official version is that external storage is too confusing for users. Yes, really. I couldn’t find a quote straight from the horse’s mouth, but I guess this will do:

    It doesn’t make much sense, but I also find it hard to believe that Google took that stance just to sell devices with bigger flash.

    Another weird part is that the only Samsung smartphone without an SD slot is the Galaxy Nexus, the one where Google had input.


    • On the other hand, I think it makes perfect, evil sense to segment the market with differing handset prices based on memory size; it’s straight out of the Apple (and others) handbook, like selling Large soft drink cup sizes in a place with unlimited refills.

      I’ll admit that it does get somewhat confusing for consumers as to where their photos/contacts end up getting saved to, but not even offering a higher model with a MicroSD slot is simply asinine. Lesson learned though – I’m never buying a new phone without a MicroSD slot again, because fuck being stuck listening to same 8gb of music every day at work.


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