I’m an embedded and application software engineer, but have only used Particle’s products for various hobby projects. I’d like to comment on what’s happened here, and ask a few questions I’d like replied to from someone at the company.
Note that I have a handful of working systems running Photons, and had bought a bunch of Argons/Xenons in anticipation of exploring Mesh and Ble support, but hadn’t got around to using them yet (thankfully).
First off, let me say that I had been very impressed by the combination of functionality, stability, and ease of use, particularly with the cloud software and how it integrates with a user’s application, as well as the fact that it’s all open source, and reasonably priced hardware.
Up to now, Particle had done an excellent job of making developing IOT projects that connect to the cloud accessible for people that are not experienced embedded engineers, while charting a path to scaling that to enterprise level product lines.
However, two thing have happened that have really made me reevaluate their value proposition:
- The roll out of Gen3 it came with what appears to have been a major reduction in backward compatibility and stability. Trying to update some Photons with pretty old firmware has caused the boards to exhibit the most bizarre behavior, including apparent CPU lockups. After reviewing the support issues, I believe I was hitting the Wifi and/or EEPROM issues I see confirmed as issues. I’m waiting for these issues to be resolved before continuing.
This had never happened (to me) before on this hardware, and reading the root causes of these issues does not reassure me as to the underlying quality of the firmware, which seems to lack an overall architecture for handling concurrency and insuring atomic access to various devices. The approach to dealing with multiple threads in particular seems to have been designed in an ad-hoc way that is almost guaranteed to cause issues in the future.
- The cancellation of the Xenon and Mesh. As an engineer for over 40 years I understand how such decisions can be made, and what they typically mean. It’s clear that the rollout of Mesh networking was premature, and it was over-hyped, and is the mark of immature engineering and/or over ambitious management.
But the decision to completely abandon then entire system also seems to be sort sighted, and could very well indicate more problems at the company then is being communicated. Pointedly, I can’t help but conclude that this decision will be far more momentous than management imagines, and is really shooting yourself in the foot.
Simply put, this severely damages your reputation. While hardware stability issues can be fixed, they must be done in a timely manor, and I see many people complaining that that is not true. But canceling an entire product that comprised an essential differentiator for your company will perhaps be seen retroactively as a major mistake.
What this does is destroying your low-end market, and force anyone with any interest in doing mesh or Ble communications to look elsewhere, while at the same time making anyone with real commercial interests to reevaluate their reliance on both your hardware products or private cloud software.
What it does seem to indicate is that you are determined to focus on the higher end cellular in particular. But your system is tied to your hardware, and your cloud, and that I think is a real problem for a lot of enterprise level businesses. It’s a great deal for the hobbyist, and the small IOT business, but any serious company is going to have to have a backup plan since they cannot count on your continued support.
So the questions I have are:
Why couldn’t the company of kept support for the Xenon and simply downgraded expectations of full arbitrary mesh support to something like a simple star configuration, which might have satisfied most peoples’ need for local communications?
What assurances do we now have that Ble support won’t be disconnected at this point, since, in my understanding, it’s not really needed anymore for the market you’re aiming for?
Thanks for reading, and I do wish Particle all the best.