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HP moves BIOS upgrades behind warranty wall

HP moves BIOS upgrades behind warranty wall

HP's enterprise equipment, including the popular ProLiant MicroServer for small and home office use, now requires a current warranty to receive firmware updates.

HP has formalised its recent move to lock firmware upgrades to customers holding current warranties, confirming that the new rules will apply to all enterprise equipment from this day forward.

Customers of HP's server gear, in particular the best-selling HP ProLiant MicroServer family which has proven popular among home users as a more flexible alternative to a traditional network attached storage (NAS) box, have been complaining recently that HP is making it harder to grab BIOS and other firmware updates. Rather than simply browsing the support site and downloading the required files, owners of selected hardware have been asked to supply their serial numbers for a warranty check - with those systems found to be out of warranty being locked out from the download area.

While the initial shift happened silently, HP has now confirmed its plan in full. 'Effective February 19, 2014, we will provide firmware updates through the HP Support Center only to customers with a valid warranty, Care Pack Service or support agreement,' explained HP's vice president of server support Mary McCoy. 'This decision reinforces our goal to provide access to the latest HP firmware, which is valuable intellectual property, for our customers who have chosen to maximise and protect their IT investments. We know this is a change from how we’ve done business in the past; however, this aligns with industry best practices and is the right decision for our customers and partners.

'Our customers under warranty or support coverage will not need to pay for firmware access, and we are in no way trying to force customers into purchasing extended coverage. That is, and always will be, a customer’s choice. At the end of the day, we want you to know that you can continue to count on HP. And we will continue to provide an easily accessible way for our customers to download firmware updates. Our intention is to offer differentiated and long-term value in the products and services we provide,' concluded McCoy.

Although McCoy denies that the move is designed to boost the number of customers buying extended support contracts, it's hard to see it any other way: customers with machines suffering from known firmware issues but whose initial warranty has expired will be locked out from receiving a fix unless and until they purchase a valid warranty pack.

The shift will only cover HP's enterprise products at present, with the company having made no comment on whether its consumer range will follow suit.

22 Comments

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edzieba 10th February 2014, 11:48 Quote
Quote:
customers with machines suffering from known firmware issues but whose initial warranty has expired will be locked out from receiving a fix unless and until they purchase a valid warranty pack.
Hoooo boy, that's a lawsuit waiting to happen!
rollo 10th February 2014, 12:00 Quote
Most people wont even relise its the bios thats the fault. ( 99% of buyers of hp products wont relise its a bios fault)
Bungletron 10th February 2014, 12:13 Quote
Dastardly manoeuvre to try and increase revenues, I bet those idiotic HP execs must be rubbing their hands with glee. This type of innovation deserves to sink any company implementing without trace, not that that will happen!

As a microserver owner here's hoping it massively backfires in their faces. Similar to other forum members, since the only support I require is the firmware downloads (never contact their support etc) I do not see the value nor buy their stupid after care packages.

For someone in my position whether they charge for this service or it leads to scaling down or termination (unlikely I know) of the department makes no difference; I won't be able to get any new firmware anyway!
Shirty 10th February 2014, 12:34 Quote
Won't the firmware downloads just start appearing in other, less wholesome locations?
sandys 10th February 2014, 12:36 Quote
That's just the way it is for a lot enterprise stuff particularly on the software side, annual service contracts and licensing, when you supply relatively small amounts of hardware/software this sort of approach is needed to keep the effort financially viable.
MrJay 10th February 2014, 12:47 Quote
Yeah id piss off the only sector that is keeping your sorry ass afloat...

Excellent strategy.
Votick 10th February 2014, 13:07 Quote
I think this is a good move.
Hopefully if the kit is a certian age then they won't supply warrenty.
BA_13 10th February 2014, 13:09 Quote
Aren't the majority of Firmware updates required on this sort of equipment issued in response to defects found in the original BIOS and not used to add additional functionality?

Regardless I shall now be looking at other micro server options when I get home, I don't think I shall be buying any more HP kit in the future (I already dislike their printers due to several bad experiences).
Bindibadgi 10th February 2014, 13:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirty
Won't the firmware downloads just start appearing in other, less wholesome locations?

Yep. A nice time to register a site in Russia and start hosting them. Not that I would do that for advertising revenue...
Tuthmose 10th February 2014, 14:48 Quote
Quote:
" . . . We know this is a change from how we’ve done business in the past; however, this aligns with industry best practices and is the right decision for making even more money."

Fixed it for you

-Tuthmose
azazel1024 10th February 2014, 16:31 Quote
I am waiting for this to be extended to their consumer line.

Oh, and drivers. Just waiting on drivers also to be stuck behind a warranty pay wall (unless of course that is what they mean about firmware).

HP Drivers and BIOS updates appearing on pirate sites in 3...2...1...
faugusztin 10th February 2014, 16:35 Quote
My guess is that Lenovo and Dell really like this news.
RedFlames 10th February 2014, 16:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by azazel1024
I am waiting for this to be extended to their consumer line.

Oh, and drivers. Just waiting on drivers also to be stuck behind a warranty pay wall (unless of course that is what they mean about firmware).

HP Drivers and BIOS updates appearing on pirate sites in 3...2...1...

Luckily *most* components rely on standardised drivers that can be found elsewhere [GPU, chipset etc.]

Though as faug points out, Dell et al. if they have any sense could capitalise on this...


EDIT: though if for some reason this doesn't come back to bite HP... you can expect other OEMs to follow suit...
j_jay4 10th February 2014, 17:15 Quote
*Rushes to HP website to download updates for MicroServer before 19th February deadline*
Phil Rhodes 10th February 2014, 17:53 Quote
Depends what they mean by "firmware updates," really. I've never used the equipment in question, so this is by way of a question, really: are they talking about major new features, or is it just glitch fixing?

If the former case, well, maybe fair enough. If the latter, not so much.
faugusztin 10th February 2014, 17:57 Quote
@Phil: any BIOS updates, RAID card firmware updates etc. Simply put, you won't see the download page for the product you own if it is out of warranty.
DC74 10th February 2014, 18:04 Quote
Well that's it then HP putting a gun to their own head and pulling the trigger. That's the dumbest idea ever to screw money out of customers. I can see HP filing for bankruptcy in a couple of years, the damage to their reputation is complete.

I remember a few years ago they were caught putting a cut off switch into their printer cartridges so after a certain amount of time they just stopped working regardless if they had been used much or not. They were sued over that one and it's not like they were cheap to replace either. Since then I've steered clear of HP products. HP has now shown it's true colours, money for nothing yet again, if everyone else just stops buying their products they will learn the hard way.
Flibblebot 10th February 2014, 20:14 Quote
But for the Microservers, don't most people already use the modified BIOS - which is freely available on other sites - anyway? Or are HP going to start issuing cease and desist notices on any site that hosts a modified BIOS file...
Gareth Halfacree 10th February 2014, 20:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
Depends what they mean by "firmware updates," really. I've never used the equipment in question, so this is by way of a question, really: are they talking about major new features, or is it just glitch fixing? If the former case, well, maybe fair enough. If the latter, not so much.
Most often the latter. For instance - and I know this, 'cos I've just bought one - the HP ProLiant MicroServer N54L has a bug in its BIOS that prevents the on-board network port from working properly on Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8.1. The updated BIOS - available only to warrantied customers, and that's right now rather than from the 19th - fixes that problem.
DriftCarl 10th February 2014, 23:30 Quote
To be honest, I would not want to purchase services for any company who didn't have active warranties on their hardware. We replace our servers every 3 years after our carepack has expired.
I did however notice this change last week, tried to download a CRITICAL security patch for iLO 3/4, however soon found out we had to sign in to download the patch.
This is actually a problem, if a known critical issue is affecting servers, it should be offered to all customers past and present.
I think even microsoft patched critical issues even in pirated versions of windows didn't they?
PaulC2K 10th February 2014, 23:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by DC74
Well that's it then HP putting a gun to their own head and pulling the trigger. That's the dumbest idea ever to screw money out of customers. I can see HP filing for bankruptcy in a couple of years, the damage to their reputation is complete.

I remember a few years ago they were caught putting a cut off switch into their printer cartridges so after a certain amount of time they just stopped working regardless if they had been used much or not. They were sued over that one and it's not like they were cheap to replace either. Since then I've steered clear of HP products. HP has now shown it's true colours, money for nothing yet again, if everyone else just stops buying their products they will learn the hard way.
HP goes far beyond consumer products (computers & printers etc) and enterprise hardware, the consumer market is probably a small fraction of where they make their money. They're certainly not that fussed about selling PCs to your regular joe consumer, maybe printers still makes them money but i bet its still chump change compared to government contracts.

Just looking on Wikipedia:
Net income: US$ 5.113 billion (2013)
Total assets: US$ 105.676 billion (2013)

Agilent (my semi-retired father works for them, as HP from '79 - '99, Agilent '99 - to date)
Net income: US$1.15 Billion (FY 2012)
Total assets: US$10.5 Billion (FY 2012)

Not bad really when you can split a division of your company with a $1.15b net income, 1/5th of what HP itself produces.
I think they'll be fine without ever having to sell another product to the consumer, and the only HP stuff i've ever had has been bought from a store like anyone else (Microserver and the odd Deskjet over the years, but certainly not fussed if its HP, Dell, or any other name as long as its a decent product).

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Still think its a stupid move, but i guess i can see their reasoning, but at what point does this stop, does MSI & co stop providing drivers for its Mobo's outside of their warranty? After all, they're providing these files as part of their service, and if that products service contract has expired then do they owe you service? In some cases - maybe, but i'd imagine not as a general rule, just like SoGA expects coverage for a reasonable lifespan, whether its sold with 1yr or 5yr, but thats probably a very rare case for hardware failure/issues due to bios/driver issues which should be expected to be issue free and arent because the user is being denied the fix.

In the example of the network problems for WS2012, i think theres reasonable expectation for them to make that fix available, their hardware simply doesnt work correctly when trying to install it, it either fails if the card is enabled, or cant complete the installation wizard without the presence of a network card, so its impossible without a fix, on an inherent issue which shouldnt exist. Its not fit for the purpose it was sold.
Wanting access to the files for performance benefits is something else, but how do you prove entitlement to a bios, or more specifically to your need for access to a fix, rather than wanting it for another benefit and using a WS2012 type issue as the excuse.
Pvt_Ryan 11th February 2014, 08:24 Quote
I reckon in the UK/EU they will run into issues, as one could claim that as the BIOS has a known issue and you as the user is encountering those issues then the BIOS is not fit for purpose under the sale of goods act.

I am not a lawyer but if you were to argue this way and go via the small claims court if they still refused then it would cost them more to defend than it would to just give you the fix.

If I had issues that's the way i'd go.
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