Windows-like licensing deals leave Eve-Devices and customers pointing fingers

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On the cusp of rolling out new devices and a follow up to a flagship PC-tableted device, Eve-Devices gets a wakeup call about crowdsourced customer support.

In 2017 a small, relatively no-name company made a big splash in the computer world by producing one of the first crowd-sourced competitors to Microsoft's heavily established detachable tablet computer, the Surface Pro. With a four-year head start and over a half a billion sunk into its marketing strategy to gain mindshare, Microsoft built a rather significant hill to climb when attempting to create an alternative to its Surface Pro. Microsoft's mindshare lead had been so well established that more well-known PC manufacturers seemingly gave up on the idea.

However, the 20-person Finnish company Eve-Technology brought to market one of the more competent Surface Pro alternatives in its Eve-V tablet PC which offered more I/O, a wider range of configurations, and subtle niceties such as Bluetooth keyboards with RGB lighting and stylus' in the box. Journalists and reviewers (myself included) were mostly welcoming of the out-of-left-field showing Eve-Devices brought to the table with the Eve-V, as well as its short but recorded history of listening to fans as a new way to build products.

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The appetite for a Surface Pro alternative was great, as one by one, more established PC makers such as Dell, HP, Acer, ASUS, and Lenovo folded up shop on manufacturing and supporting their own detachable tablet PC products. Enter Eve-Device with the closest Surface Pro facsimile that came in a few hundred dollars cheaper and with a few more features. Unfortunately, as a crowdsourced manufacturer with relatively limited supply chain relationships and processes, Eve-Tech was headed for an uphill battle getting to the numbers it promised backers when it began taking pre-orders for its Eve-V tablet back in 2017.

Fast forward four years and Eve-Tech publicly transformed into Eve-Devices after some rather turbulent business affairs, that included rumors of the company being close to bankruptcy in 2018. Since then, Eve-Tech evolved into a new company by the name of Eve-Devices which represents Eve Distribution Hong Kong. Unfortunately, there are only two members from the 20-member team that remain affiliated with the original Eve-Tech company.

Former co-founder Konstantinos Karatsevidis now acts as a communication manager and somewhat of a principal experience consultant to the newly formed Eve-Devices company based in Hong Kong.

With that said, Eve-Devices is set to roll out a high-end gaming monitor as well as a follow-up to Eve-Tech's flagship tablet PC, but the industry sentiment towards the former company has seemingly soured. The name association has become an increasing point of contention with more posts surfacing on the internet detailing the rise and perceptive fall of Eve-Devices as less of the crowd-sourced champion but more of a bait-and-switch scam team.

A swelling crowd of anti-Eve-Tech and now -Eve-Device protestors have taken to Reddit to share their stories of misfortune when dealing with Eve-Tech and now Eve-Devices as an early backer or recent customer. The subreddit aptly titled r/evev has become a digitally transient VA of sorts where veteran-like former Eve customers gather to talk through their wartime atrocities when dealing through Eve's many perceived shortcomings as a distribution channel or competently marketed business. The negative turn Eve is experiencing ahead of its Spectrum monitor rollout has less to do with the actual hardware produced by the company and more to do with its customer support, a failed licensing model as well as communication, or lack thereof.

As a reviewer, I'm inherently coming from a place of privilege and it's no more apparent than the current standoff between Eve and its jilted customer base. Judging from the more 500 member Reddit group, my rather pleasant experience with Eve may be more an outlier than the norm. A moderator from the Eve subreddit reached out to me in late 2020 to alert me to the growing trend of negative stories still surrounding Eve's four-year-old tablet PC and the company's customer service issues.

I’m a moderator at a subreddit called r/evev where we are a collection of users who have been waiting for Eve to deliver or refund orders for their first “V” tablet from December 2017. Additionally, we are tracking the progress of Eve’s other projects and we are noticing a lot of similar patterns that concern us.

I did a survey of users over the past week and currently out of 135 users over 90% have not been refunded and Eve owes the remaining users $200,000. These are mostly people who paid full-price back in December 2017 for Eve’s last “V” tablet.

I was originally one of those people negatively affected by Eve and they did end up refunding my order after I started making my story heard over on Reddit, after 3 years of waiting. I’m reaching out hoping that you can help me bring attention to others' struggles with Eve so they can get a better answer as to when refunds will be dealt with, and hopefully Eve will actually follow up this time.

After two weeks and reading more than four years' worth of posts a clear through-line surfaced with regards to Eve and its customers which reveals that the company not only seemingly came up short on delivering its promised shipments of Eve-V PC tablets, but it's also failing to refund disenfranchised and frustrated backers 1,460-some odd days later. The fervent disappointment from former and current Eve customers has spilled on to more mainstream communities outside of Reddit that include a short reiteration of the subreddit from Notebook Check detailing the $225,000 in refunds owed to customers or featured posts on The Verge.

From failing to properly communicate refund policies to credit card chargebacks and claims of bankruptcy, former Eve customers have a long list of grievances that would give any boutique retailer reason for concern, especially as it gears up to roll out a new product as well as a sequel to its already-in-question flagship.

However, there are usually two sides to every story and I've reached out to Eve-Devices for comment regarding the rather alarming trend of cautionary tales coming from what used to be sectarian supporters.

According to the former co-founder Karatesvidis, while customer complaints are valid and being received by the company, it's more of the case of miscommunication that's led to the snowballing of grievances.

While it may be a couple of years late for those aggrieved in 2017, Eve posted on the company's blog a breakdown of the customer service situation at hand.

The past

The Eve V is proof that crowd-development through the eve community can create great products. While the V has been received with great reviews from media and end users alike, there have also been setbacks in the project.

As I have briefly shared in the Spectrum Q&A 70 last week, originally our team in Finland wanted to focus on R&D and design while licensing sales, manufacturing and aftersales to partners around the world. We developed and designed products with community, created all the necessary tools and processes for production and licensed it to partners in various regions. Our Helsinki team and company invested funds into the R&D, design, brand, and marketing. In this business model sales partners are able to use our brand, tooling's, motherboard designs, etc for a fraction of the cost by paying us a license fee per unit sold, taking care of manufacturing, shipping, replacements and so on.

This licensing business model is very common. For example, when you buy Marshall headphones, Porsche notebook, Angry Birds toy or Starbucks instant coffee in a supermarket those brands didn’t make it nor did they sell it to you: they just licensed the brand, and in some cases the design etc. The scope of these agreements varies. Hardware licensing business models is great in theory as everyone focuses on their strengths and adds value to the end product.

We decided to start by making a 3-year licensing deal with a few key partners around the world that would license our product and brand. Most of these partners helped to provide a smooth customer experience, whether you ordered from Indiegogo 36, Taobao 32, bestware 12, Drop 21 and others.

Unfortunately, one of our major partners Fortress Tech Distribution LTD, the one operating the web store through www.eve-tech.com 124 ran into issues with the supply chain, funds frozen by payment processors, and untimely deliveries, causing frustration among the community and direct damage to our brand. Now that the licensing contract has expired we are sharing things as they are with you directly. We have not mentioned this publicly as we had a very tight NDA clauses with heavy penalties.

More specifically, there were 1000s of the Eve V shipped in 2017 and subsequent years as well as refunds handled, but unfortunately, Eve-Tech's failed licensing deal led to a restructuring of the brand that now leaves the new Hong Kong-based company saddled with a legacy of "licensed" complaints and refunds that they are judiciously attempting to address.

 

 

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Addressing the changes Eve-Tech underwent in becoming Eve-Devices, Karatesvidis gave me some details on how Eve-Tech has now become Eve-Devices and how that may affect past customer claims.

After the disaster with our previous reseller new company has been established to handle sales, manufacturing, and distribution with team members from the original r&d company as well as new investors and partners.

In fact, I am no longer the CEO in the company either as our management, investors, and the board has fully changed, and now our company Eve Distribution in Hong Kong is run by Tuukka Korhonen (He is fine being quoted on this reply instead of me btw)

Generally speaking, this is the key change that will not let the same issue happen again as now when a customer buys Spectrum it is bought directly from us and not a third-party seller which we have no direct control of.

In order to accommodate the order volume, we have as well as assure high quality of our products we have partnered with tier 1 monitor manufacturer that makes monitors for Asus ROG, Acer Predator, HP omen, Dell, Alienware. You name it! As a result, every aspect of development is handled at a much higher quality level. Our manufacturer is owned directly by LG which ensures we don't run into panel shortage issues.

Taking Eve's response at face value, they appeared to have been in a similar situation as Microsoft when it comes to their licensing and complaint situation. Microsoft licenses Windows to manufacturers who then distribute PCs powered by Microsoft's operating system. The middle-man PC manufacturer is typically on the hook for computer repairs and warranty issues for the device as a whole in similar licensing situations. In Eve's case, somewhere in the distribution chain the licensing of its V device fell off the rails, resulting in hundreds of devices not making it to their backers, or complaints and refunds getting caught in customer support quagmire while the company and its licensed partners pointed fingers at each other.

However, unlike Microsoft with billions in the reserve to weather poorly rolled out devices and ongoing hardware issues (RROD), Eve-Tech succumbed to their licensing deals and poor distribution and ultimately had to move to an entirely new company. It now seems, the new Eve-Devices company wants to be more like Microsoft and is taking a more hands-on approach (ala Surface devices) to help control the narrative of their marketing, distribution, and customer service story.

At the end of the day, Eve-Devices is left holding the bag for Eve-Tech's 2017 supply and customer service issues, to which the former has admitted were many, "Eve V was our first crowd-developed project, and I think we’ve made all the mistakes there are to make during the project."

As I see it, there is a bit of he said, she said going on between the justifiably angry customer base, Eve-Tech, and its former licensing distributers. Going forward, all Eve-Devices can do is continue to address and process as many outstanding refunds accumulated from Eve-Tech's shortcomings especially if it's looking to leverage any of the market goodwill accumulated from Eve=Tech's 2017's launch. There are growing pains in becoming a trusted manufacturer and according to Eve-Devices, they've made some changes since the original release of Eve-Tech's Eve-V device and are working towards being a more trusted manufacturer. On the eve of Eve-Devices testing its new rebranding experiment, it'll be interesting to see which lessons have been learned and which ones the new company may be doomed to repeat.

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