An Open Letter to StreetDeck and MP3Car.com
To Whom It May Concern,
I have been an in-car computer enthusiast for over three years now. I started off designing my system about two and a half years ago and finally pulled the trigger just over a year ago and bought all the parts, peripherals, base system, and software to support the endeavor. At the time one of the things that I noticed was that there really was not much in the way of support or service for such things as this out in the consumer arena. Even Fry's does not sell items this specialized. What caused me to proceed with this task however, was the fact that MP3Car existed. It is, was, and has been a place to get the kind of support that many novice and mid-tier enthusiasts need to support this hobby. If a hobbyist has a question about parts, configurations, supported software, all he really needs to do is ask and other users are usually right there to help.
The one area in this hobby that seems to be suffering from a lack of options is in user interface. There are a few options out there in StreetDeck, CentraFuse, RR, etc. However, each has a pretty large learning curve and work differently. Based on its code maturity and support level, at the time, I chose StreetDeck as my interface of choice. Also weighing in heavily on this decision were the fact that it was provided (and therefore endorsed) by MP3Car and had what was seemingly a pretty high level of support and upcoming features. Unfortunately, over the course of the past year, it has become apparent that StreetDeck is unable to even approach the goals that were originally set for it, or the needs of many of its users who purchased it.
Just recently MP3Car started providing CentraFuse. Upon evaluation, it seems to work better out of the box than StreetDeck and includes support for many of the features that were promised with StreetDeck and never delivered upon. Until recently I held out hope for the StreetDeck product. However due to a complete and total failure to provide software updates and adequate communication with its users I am now out of the purchase price plus any individual time I invested trying to make the product functional.
MP3Car promised an announcement in regards to StreetDeck during the first week of this month and as of 5:11PM Apr. 21st 2008 we still have heard nothing. I believe we are owed an explanation as to what the status of StreetDeck is. This is not a computer game where the developer has the right to release updates as he or she sees fit in order to add content. This is a software product where features were listed that did not in fact exist at the time and where promises were made to provide features and then those features were not delivered upon. That small difference makes StreetDeck a tangible product and as such is an actionable entity.
MP3Car may not own StreetDeck nor have any binding influence over its development, however they did endorse it and served as its sole source of distribution. As such they are just as binding as StreetDeck is to the terms of sale under which it was provided. If StreetDeck is to be continually maintained from this point forward, then they have an obligation to their customers to inform them of the status of the product. If not, then MP3Car should at the very least inform the customers as to what the status is. If development is suspended then StreetDeck should also reimburse their customers for at least a partial amount of the purchase price so they may seek out an alternative product and not have to 'eat the cost' of a non-starter. In some states this is required by law, which is why Best Buy and Circuit City have started offering refunds for HD-DVD gear purchased within a certain window for in store refunds (must be redeemed for other goods at the store).
I have no wish to get involved in a legal issue with either MP3Car or StreetDeck. I merely mention these facts so that MP3Car and StreetDeck have an idea of the obligations to their customers. These obligations are not being met, and are increasingly becoming a source of tension between the customers (us) and the providers (MP3Car and StreetDeck). Like I said, I have no wish to get involved legally with either entity, but I will be looking into starting proceedings against both entities in small-claims court if we are not provided some information soon.