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High Resolutions

Happy New Year! After weeks of nonstop partying and egg nog, the holiday season comes to a close with New Year's Eve, a night of deliberate excess. So

Happy New Year! After weeks of nonstop partying and egg nog, the holiday season comes to a close with New Year’s Eve, a night of deliberate excess. So now it’s 2005: Wake up around noon, pour your morning-after remedy of choice — Bloody Mary/herbal tea/Budweiser/Pepto-Bismol/etc. — pull out those new calendars and sit down to make a few changes for the coming year.

Most people refer to these as “resolutions” — typically, goals such as quitting smoking or dropping a few pounds. However, as these are the same plans you’ve made in years past, they’re definitely low-resolution resolutions. What the world (at least the audio industry) needs now are “high resolutions.” Something less than earth-shattering, perhaps, but some small deeds that could actually make the (audio) world a better place. Because we’re all gear junkies at heart, and with the NAMM show coming up in a few weeks, here are a few high resolutions for the manufacturing community…

Fix your Website! You probably don’t think it needs fixing, but it does. If the words “skip intro” appear on your opening page, you’ve got a problem. People visit your site looking for information, not entertainment. No one — I repeat no one — wants to watch that whirling logo and spacey music intro of yours. Worst of all, your search engine ranking is based partly on the text on your front page, and if the only words are “skip intro,” there isn’t much for Google, Yahoo, et al, to work with. While you’re at it, test your site with several browsers to make sure your customers can actually view it.

Give us support! Phone support is hard to access (busy signals) for users, so pump up your Web support. Offer more FAQs, troubleshooting tips, downloadable manuals and quick-start charts. And provide documentation for discontinued products: You made that stuff, so give your supporters some support.

Copy protection is a necessary evil. A friend of mine had to buy a USB hub just to run all of his dongles on his laptop! Concepts such as the iLok aren’t necessarily perfect, but are a step in the right direction. Maybe 2005 will be the year when some smart minds in this biz come up with a solution we can all live with. Pleeeeaase?

Every manufacturer is in a hurry to get product out, but can you actually test stuff before you ship it? If it’s software/peripherals, check it on Intel and AMD hardware (with Win 2000, NT and XP Pro/Home); on the Mac side, try OS X (Panther, too) as well as OS 9 and G5/G4/G3/legacy machines. If some platform isn’t supported, let users know before they buy/upgrade, and don’t simply promise a future new driver or fix. Even good ol’ audio hardware (from mics to modeling synths) needs a good dose of beta testing before foisting it on the public.

Finally, look at your products from a long-term user’s viewpoint. A box with a soldered-in battery for RAM backup just screams the phrase “planned obsolescence.” And in one of the few industries where users actually value vintage gear, a few extra coins for a battery socket (or better-quality pots, switches and connectors) can be equated with satisfied users and repeat customers down the line.

We all thank you.