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Creative to free Audigy Windows Vista compatibility app

And buyers to be refunded

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Creative has told buyers of its ALchemy for Audigy sound software that they'll get their money back following its decision to release the next version of the app free of charge.

In an email sent out to customers yesterday, Creative said the new version of the software will be released on or shortly after 19 May. Unlike previous releases, it won't cost anything. Older versions of the application came with a $10 price tag.

And this made a lot of SoundBlaster Audigy users rather angry. The changes Microsoft made to the way audio is handled by Windows in the Vista era prevented Audigy users from getting the 3D audio and other sound effects generated by their sound cards.

Under Windows XP, MS' DirectSound and DirectSound 3D API were able to mediate communcations between game and audio hardware. That feature was essentially removed from the Vista-oriented DirectX 10, forcing DirectSound calls to be processed solely by the CPU.

No mere driver update would fix this, so Creative offered ALchemy to convert DirectSound calls into their equivalents in OpenAL, an open sound library. But because ALchemy was an application, not a driver, Creative decided customers should pay extra for it.

That annoyed rather a lot of buyers who'd enjoyed using Audigy under XP but suddenly found it didn't work fully under Vista. We agree with them. Vendors shouldn't penalise their customers because of something someone else altogether does.

We've seen software developers charge money for updates that allow previously working apps to gain compatibility with either Vista or Mac OS X 10.5, forcing users to pay twice simply for having the temerity to upgrade their operating system.

By all means charge for new features, but to do so to simply allow a user to carry on using your product is, we think, the height of cheekiness.

So points to Creative for not only relenting, but also for giving refund to folk who had paid.

The news comes a month after the company withdrew threats to sue Brazilan coder daniel_k for writing drivers that improved its products' performance under Windows Vista.

The company's email to customers says the company will put the $9.99 back onto the credit card used to pay it in the first place. Refund requests can be made here. The offer, it warned, is only valid until 30 June.

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