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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.