Cowon has always had a strong underground following for its very clean sound and great support for audio codecs. However, this underground support is slipping due to very poorly written firmware. Even in the past being a Cowon user have been bothered by numerous buggy and botched firmwares. I in fact have bricked an i7 as well as U3- bricked to the point of having to be returned to the manufacture to be fixed. Both of these happened while upgrading firmwares.
Some of these issues were also seen with the very popular D2. This player was put on our top 5 players of 2008, but only after a year and a half of frustrating firmware updates finally making it stable. One of the issues with the D2 was giving additional features priority before bugs. For instance, a scientific calculator was added before core audio bugs were fixed.
This brings us to the O2. This PMP has been highly anticipated and hit the market about a month ago. But when released and even today in the latest beta firmware, advertised features are still not working. I was frustrated with the O2 as seen in my preview write up but Martin our headphone editor and long time Cowon fan is disheartened and downright angry with this latest O2 release. And he should be giving that Cowon has had plenty of time to fix various issues over the last few years with the A2, A3, D2, ect. In his forum thread “Things I hate about the O2”, other users share our frustration. One user didn’t even own his O2 for more than 24 hours before returning.
The S9 hardware exists in the confines of Cowon. But it appears that firmware keeps this player from hitting the market and it should. If the S9 is released with an unstable firmware it will be another “straw to break the camel’s back” to even more long time Cowon enthusiasts. So in order to succeed, at least in the American and EU market, the S9 needs to be stable at release. Other brands are surpassing Cowon in sound quality, adding the more exotic audio codecs, and already have great UIs, so advantages are being lost.
Cowon, we love you, but you need to be better if you want to continue to reign even in the enthusiast market. You are losing support from your most hardcore fans. Hardware is solid, we have few complains about that, but its imperative that you improve your firmware and the process in which it gets updated. Hiring a user interface expert would also be a good idea.
Companies that are succeeding are the ones that are listening, I see this first hand. We lend a hand and interact with SanDisk, Microsoft, and Samsung in providing valuable user feedback to improve their products. We can and would love to help you too.