Where Creative fails…

I have always been a fan of Creative Labs. They have come up with great audio related products aimed at the general consumer, and at very affordable prices. I have always owned Creative sound cards and other PC sound stuff and recently added the Zen Vision:M.

Now, I have always noticed this with Creative. While they have really great hardware, the lack in software. And they really lack. I’ll exemplify with a couple of examples. The Creative sound cards came with a suite of software for everything from basic sound editing to MIDI sequencers. But it was very very difficult to understand how it worked. The names were vague, the interfaces incomprehensible and help menus were not at all helpful!

I was hoping that when Creative went into the media player market, and competed against Apple, they would put in a lot of efforts into their software. But the same old broken crap came along with the Vision.

I have to say that the firmware and the embedded software on the Vision itself is pretty cool. It works pretty well and has most of functionalities that I need. The only exception would be allowing the user to edit the ID3 tags on the Vision itself. But, maybe I am asking for too much.

But this rant is about the PC side software support. This Portable Media Player comes with a plethora of PC software. There is a Sync Software, a Media player, a Pod Catcher, a Media Explorer (like windows explorer for the Vision), a software to buy online content, a software for audiobook support. Sheesh. Now that is confusing. And the best part is, they dont work with each other!!! Not only that, they cause each other to crash!!

Now this is just really really bad software design. I do see how a software suite is a better option than a single application that does everything (like iTunes), but in such an approach, the suite should work as together, not against each other. A great example of such a suite is the old Nokia PC Suite for the old Nokia 6510. Creative should really do something about this. While I manage to get along with this mess, I am very sure a less savvy user would just give up and buy an iPod.

25 comments so far

  1. DK on

    I think its not just the software. Creative lacks the style. And their marketing lose to Apple flat down.

    I’m not slaming creative, but really, I hope they can do Singapore proud 1 day.

    • Suzy on

      That’s a creative answer to a dilficuft question

  2. NTT on

    Yes. Not only style in the asthetic sense, Apple has created ‘cool’ image for itself. And they have spent a lot of effort trying to maintain it. The software, the iPod designs, the Macs….

    Creative is no where near. I also wish Creative would change for the better. Making good software is not hard, they just need to make an effort.

  3. rationalneurotic on

    I am a fan of Creative. Its price is more valueworthy and its hardware is fantastic actually. However, I agree with the software. I absolutely hate MediaSource (I don’t know why they give us MediaSource AND WMP10) and will load only the driver. Funny thing, without the driver, you cannot even charge from the computer or laptop, even though you can see the device is on AC.

    I usually use Windows Explorer to neaten my music in the device. Creative has a long way to go on its software for microdisk and harddisk devices, if it wants to match its hardware. As for their marketing, etc, perhaps that’s an argument for another day.

    I long for the day that when tourists come to Singapore, they HAVE to visit the Creative shop and buy a Creative back.

  4. Paddy Tan on

    In terms of features, Zen is the winner. But in terms of appealing, iPod go home run on this, no doubts about it.

    My suggestion will be to market Zen on its features, its functions and appeal to those that go for all these neat radio, recording, screen etc. There are still a whole lot of potential customers that will be attracted by features rather than style.

    Why some phones are features packed and attracted mainly male customers? But the moment it rolls out some pink, yellow, red colors phones you start seeing ladies carrying them?

    Stop the same old, same tried method of fighting against Apple on being ‘cool’. iPod cool factor is way high but that doesnt mean Creative cannot reach there with its features of its players too.

    Like rationalneurotic, I do hope that one day any tourists here in Singapore will WANT to visit shops that sell the local ‘products’. Just like when you go to IPOH, you wanna get a pack or two of its White Coffee. Let Singapore be one of those where tourits wanna get a tech product. :)

    Paddy Tan

  5. NTT on

    I am not so sure abt the price point anymore. Last I checked the Zen Vision:M was like S$50-80 more than the iPod. But they surely do have better hardware.

    And as Paddy said, it has some cool features. Like the built-in microphone, and ability to record from radio(which they removed and then added back through the firmware updates.. :S ).

    MediaSource, I uninstalled it after 10 mins. Media Explorer lasted for 2 days. The ZenCast Organiser is the only one that is worth having.

    As for the Creative becoming that popular. I don’t see it happening in the near future. Apple appeals to everyone. Creative… only the savy appreciate. And the savy are just a minority.

  6. Sunny on

    “On SIA plane to Singapore, I listens to music on the in-flight Creative music player. The in-flight captain announces this month is Creative Month, there is a free tour to Creative Mansion from airport. Attracted by this Creative Marketing, I went to Creative Mansion, to buy a unniquely Sinagpore’s Creative Merlion MP3 player that plays Creative media.I like the blinking eyes of the Merlion” Just my imagination.

    I think it would take more than a new software to market the Creative MP3 palyer to tourist.

    • Rocky on

      This forum needed shiankg up and you’ve just done that. Great post!

    • Interesting writeup. This got on Hacker News, and I wrote a somewhat lengthy comment there that I just realized would’ve made more sense to post here, but it seems a bit silly to repost it so I’ll just .

  7. NTT on

    Wow!. Looks like we are really proud of our Creative eh? Ok, everyone better go buy Zens and show your support!!

    Sunny, you are right, it will surely take much more than better software. But I believe that better software is easily achievable compared to say the ‘cool’ image. And without it, Creative can never be that popular.

  8. oskar on

    Design is everything: from image to marketing to branding to product design to the design fo the hardware’s manuals (graphic and information design plus copywriting) to software.

    And Sim Wong Hoo is not about design.


  9. Slug on

    I support Creative all my life. Not only coz they are a Singaporean company, but also that their products are so much better than the rest. I have a Zen Vision M also, and as for the features, it beats ANY ipod hands down.

    My biggest gripe is that the marketing is really sucky. Compare the Zen adverts with Apple ones. A Panda? Can some1 explain wat has that gotta do with the Zen?

    Mr Sim, pls fire the entire marketing department and get some real creative (forgive the pun) ones. We really need good marketing to beat Apple at their game.

  10. Harro! on

    Do you guys know what is powering Zune?
    Creative might just be a low-key ODM. :)

  11. Harro! on

    “Creative Mansion”? Is that something like the Playboy Mansion? :)

  12. Hollud on

    The current Zune is based on a Toshiba Gigabeat.

    Also, on a small note, my friend just bought a Zen Micro (or something… I can’t really remember). I did, however, remember that as we checked out the box contents, Creative seems to have slipped in iTunes 7 as the primary software management. I was perplexed, but I have plugged in Creative media players into my Mac and it reflects fine on iTunes.

    Microsoft is pitting itself not only against Apple but against other companies like Creative, Sandisk and iRiver. It’s own Zune player does not support Microsoft’s own “Plays For Sure” branding.

    Not to belittle Creative, but it is facing a HUGE, HUGE competition.

  13. sy on

    The Zen Touch, one of the older hdd players, broke down every month or so, and it took abt 2 changes to get a decent one which is still working after 2 years. :) Good sound quality, since they’re famous for that. The iPod’s cool, but it’s too ‘thin’ for my own liking, and it doesn’t have the radio function or audio recording. Correct me if i’m wrong.

    • Rosa on

      Surspiring to think of something like that

  14. Paddy Tan on

    There are quite a lot of good singapore-made, singapore-produced, singaporeans-run products and services here from this small 4 million plus populations. With a good marketing plan, good positioning, I hope to see more own Singaporeans supporting these products.

    Too many times, I have come across own Singaporeans saying our own country made products sucks. With time to come, hope that these perceptions change.

    Paddy Tan

  15. NTT on

    @Slug Ya! Panda!!. Maybe Pandas are Zen. But that Ad is totally lame.

    @Harro Creative being low-key ODM.. I really don’t see that happening. Creative owns a lot of IP to have to slide down to that level.

    @Hollud iTunes with Zen!! Hmm. Do you think it works on PC as well? I would try. But I have had bad experience with iTunes on PC.

    @sy You are right about the iPod. All these features are only avalible on the iPod as ascessories. Which cost more $$

    @Paddy Indeed, we should stop immitating and start innovating. We have a lot of talent, ideas and content. We just need to use it well.

  16. oskar on

    1) On my previous comment: See FastCompany, ‘The Masters of Design’ issue and then think about what Sim Wong Hoo said, ie. in what frame of mind would someone make a comment about ‘injection moulding’ in a magazine that asked you about design?

    2) The full details of the ‘Zen patent’ out-of-court settlement was not reported in the MSM.

    Under that settlement, Creative is to produce accessories for the iPod.

  17. NTT on

    I need to check that out.

    I had heard about the Zen patent and the part of the settlement which said “Creative can produce accessories for the iPod”. But I haven’t seen any yet. Are there any in the market?

  18. Hollud on

    @NTT – Yeah, I think Creative players should work on iTunes, be it on Windows or on the Mac.

    Also, on the topic of the interface Creative’s infringement lawsuit made against Apple, that was eventually settled out of court. Apple paid Creative a disclosed sum while Apple said that it would welcome Creative to make accessories for the iPod economy. I believe those accessories would include things like their speakers, headphones and other audio products manufactured by our dear Singaporean company.

  19. NTT on

    @Hollud – I was hoping more of things like FM transmitters for the iPod or other specific accessories.

    I don’t think speakers or headphones are considered iPod accessories. You don’t need license to make such things.

    Unless ofcourse Creative wants to sell them under the Apple name, but I don’t think that would happen. Will it??

  20. george on

    does anyone know how can i use my zen vision m on a mac???

  21. NTT on


    Check out XNJB. I believe it supports the Vision:M.


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