[Updated: July 5, 2007 @ 1.40 pm] Is this update a driver or a software update? To clarify (or at least reduce on the confusion) I've changed the title to say "update." You decide whether EAX support is a driver or "software."
[Updated: July 6, 2007 @ 3.05 pm] The arguments over whether this is a software update that Creative has released on a driver continues. To be honest, I'm not going to get involved word games. Anyone buying a Audigy card would have been provided a CD that contained drivers and software to make EAX work. Whether that's a driver or software, I'm not sure, but the point is that people who bought an Audigy sound card and who have moved to Vista now have to pay to reactivate something that previously worked. If the EAX features were controlled by code written by a third party (examples here are say Sage TV for a TV tuner card) then a charge would be acceptable. Since EAX support is developed and controlled by Creative, and since this support is made available for free for X-Fi cards, making users pay for the Audigy update sounds an awful lot to me like Creative is charging the customer ten bucks because they can. This charging for software updates comes across as scary to me and could usher in an era where we have to dip out hands into our pockets on a regular basis for updates, whether they are drivers or software.
From the "that's gotta be a dumb PR move" files, Creative Labs decides to try to charge $9.99 for Vista compatible updates for the Audigy range of sound cards.
No, this isn't April 1st and I kid you not. Creative really does think that people are going to pay money for a
driver software update. Understandably, Creative customers are getting emotional over this. Destroying your reputation over $9.99 ... bad move.
This charging money for drivers game is getting real old. Any company that tries to pull this kind of stunt is underhandedly double dipping customers. There's no excuse for it. I for one won't be buying any more Creative Labs gear until they get the message that providing
drivers software updates is a service that customers have already paid for when they bought the hardware in the first place.
[Updated: July 5, 2007 @ 8.20 am] Just to clarify - the update activates the processing of EAX effects which means it's aimed at gamers and Creative does still offer basic drivers for free. Still, it's a patch that activates a feature specific to the sound card and should still be supplied free of charge by Creative as a courtesy to customers.