Solving the Firmware Problem

Nikon's recent Z6 II and Z7 II firmware updates (now available to download) illustrate a problem that all tech companies have, but one that is now plaguing the camera industry.

The Z6 and Z7 are still for sale new on the market. Did they get the appropriate pieces of the new Z6 II and Z7 II firmware in their own firmware update? No. In particular, one small fix that added EXIF information that Final Cut Pro could pick up and display. The remaining things in the update pertain solely to the II models, but that particular issue is one that the original cameras also have. So why didn't we get a firmware update for that? Again, Nikon is still selling those cameras as new; they've not been taken off the market. And frankly, even if they were no longer sold I would argue that this is a fix that should be made.

Nikon isn't the only camera company having this problem. I've seen it with Fujifilm, OM Digital Solutions, and Sony, as well, and I suppose if I looked closely enough, I could find it endemic to all the makers. Even crossing outside of cameras, the problem persists. Samsung just sent a press release on their latest phone that they'd provide security updates for only four years (technically, that's three less years than the company would be committed to repairing said phone). Apple is quick to relegate older OS versions to the "no longer updated" heap, though lately they've tempered that a bit, and you at least still see security updates that go back two or more versions.

I don't want a camera, phone, computer, or car that is abandoned by its maker long before I stop using it. If a tech company wants customer loyalty, they're going to have to step up and make a real commitment to keeping firmware/software secure, bug free, and complete for a known period of time, not the short period of time that some bean counter says has expired. 

Yes, this is difficult. It requires resources that the tech companies would rather use elsewhere, and it has real costs in order to do. As customers, we have to support those companies financially in order for them to do it, and there are only two ways that happens: higher up-front prices, or on-going costs. 

So I'm going to propose a solution. Neither you nor the camera companies are going to 100% like my solution, but the fact that both sides will suffer some pain over it means that it's probably the right solution:

  • COMPANY will provide timely security, bug fix, and feature completion updates for a PRODUCT for a period not less than that for which they must guarantee to provide repair (7 years after last manufacturing of product in the US, which I believe is still the worst case). CUSTOMER may have to pay a fair, annual firmware update fee to have access to those updates after warranty for PRODUCT has expired. 

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