The Smach Z Already Out of Steam, Oh Oh

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Following the start of their Kickstart campaign a couple of days ago, things have been looking worse and worse for the portable Steam Machine project. While the idea was interesting, this project has been going into so many issues it’s now clear it’s doomed to fail unless a rich guy jumps in to save this from the shores of Hell. There’s too many things that went wrong but let’s list a couple of them…

  • Branding Disaster: They had to drop the “Steam Machine” appellation since it requires Valve to validate the hardware apparently… so they renamed it to “Smach Z, the handeld PC” which is neither new nor very exciting. Oops. Maybe they should have checked with Valve before launching their Kickstarter in the wild.
  • No prototype. That’s supposed to be a condition for hardware Kickstarter projects nowadays, but KS is pretty bad at enforcing anything and they benefit from scams anyway since they don’t carry any of the responsibility. But that does not change the fact that Smach Z looks like vaporware at this stage because there’s nothing tangible they have developed.

Their Last update: We’re going to show more images of our current prototype but, as we pointed out in the comments forum, don’t expect to see a working SMACH Z: What we have at the moment is what you see in the KS video.

  • No known Name: none of the project leaders have any prior social exposure or success story to bring trust to the project. KS Branding these days is about as much about the project leader as the project itself. Worse, even the manufacturer in charge of the industrial production has not met the deadline for their Linux-based tablet in this year.
  • Unclear specifications: they did not share any specs at this stage and this caused a lot of confusion amongst the backers who started asking how something so powerful could be available – in the end they had to reveal their prototype is using an underpowered AMD chip because they don’t have access to the one they target at this stage – this misled backers into believing that the AMD chip planned was simply not powerful enough while they could have been clear about that from Day 1. It’s another detail, but the HDMI interface (HDMI mutliplexer) is such that it will prevent displaying both on the included LCD and an external screen at the same time. Again, all of this should not have surfaced once folks started asking questions.
  • No Hands-On: Because there’s no prototype either there’s no way to demonstrate either how the unit would feel in hand and how you could play with it.
  • Poor pricing policy: they started by telling early birds would pay a lower price than the real unit cost, which is bad marketing. It makes the following backers feel bad about paying more than the rest. It’s better to add goodies together with a realistic unit price than making your audience feel like crap.
  • Poor Communication Plan: They released pre-info about their device months ago but decided to wait to launch their campaign – it would have been much more effective to do it all at once, so that interested parties don’t have to hear about the project three times before they can act on it.
  • Unrealistic schedule: now that it’s abundantly clear they don’t have any prototype at this stage, their proposed schedule is officially laughable. They probably have no hardware making experience and are overly optimistic about their ability to delivery units in LESS THAN A YEAR. That’s just crazy talk.

Funding wise, they are now trending way behind where they need to be and it seems that they are actually losing backers in the past day (some folks withdrew their pledges and not enough stepped in to make a difference).

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Too bad they half-baked their whole campaign, the original idea was interesting – we will see if they decide to stop before the end, and run on another platform to still make it happen, but honestly at this stage even if the guys in charge are technically capable, they have a ton to learn before they try to market this again to the masses.

EDIT (Jan 7, 2016) : Those who follow the project are already aware, but Smach Z devs have decided to drop the Kickstart in mid-way on the 17th of December, following the numerous issues reported by users. They are now considering how to move forward outside of Kickstarter.


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Ekianjo

4 Comments

  1. Short-lived, ill-conceived hardware funding campaigns on Kickstarter and similar sites seem to be becoming almost as prevalent as short-lived, ill-conceived Ubuntu remix distros.

    Speaking of absentee hardware, ALTERNATE, Digital Storm, and Webhallen.com have missed their November Steam Machine launch dates, and they are a couple of weeks from missing a 2015 launch altogether. I wonder how long these companies will get free advertising on Steam if they don’t actually release any Steam Machines?

    *ZOTAC’s NEN is available on ALTERNATE’s website, but not ALTERNATE’s own Steam Machine. The Windows configuration of Digital Storm’s Eclipse appears to have launched around 2014-December, but there has yet to surface a SteamOS configuration, and currently you can’t change the OS to anything other than Windows (there isn’t even a “no OS” option). There are no Steam Machines from any manufacturer available on Webhallen.com, let alone Webhallen’s own.

    • Agree, those companies have been very silent regarding their SteamOS plans. Probably because they have none in the first place, and just treated the whole thing as a PR operation without committing to anything.

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