Logitech will be deliberately bricking every unit of the Harmony Link, a universal hub which allows users to control their home theatre systems and a variety of other devices from their smartphones, on 16 March 2018. According to Bleeping Computer, on that date Logitech will issue a firmware update that permanently disables the devices. As Popular Science additionally noted, the Harmony Link relies upon a cloud-based service to function that will be taken offline, ensuring that users will be locked out no matter what.
Rory Dooley, head of Logitech Harmony, told Gizmodo in a statement that the decision to turn off the devices "does not impact Logitech's commitment to Logitech Harmony customers", adding that those within a one-year warranty period could exchange their devices for free for an upgraded Harmony Hub. Other owners can get a "one-time discount offer" (35 per cent, per Bleeping Computer) on the $US100 ($130) replacement.
Dooley told Gizmodo they had discontinued support for the devices because of the expiration of a security licence, and that the product only had a "small user base".
"The technology certificate (for Harmony Link) is an encryption certification that expires in the spring [autumn in Australia] of 2018, which may open the product up to potential security vulnerabilities," Dooley added. "We've refocused development resources on newer technologies, and therefore, we are not updating the Harmony Link certificate."
While Dooley said the product was last sold by Logitech in 2015, Bleeping Computer reported the company "held fire sales for Harmony Link devices in the past months, offering the universal hubs at lowered prices and with a warranty of only three months". It also noted that users on Logitech's forums claimed the terms "class action lawsuit" were being censored.
Discontinuing support for an ageing product is pretty par for the course and more or less inevitable, given it's impossible to expect companies to commit resources to maintaining old technology forever. Deliberately bricking those products while encouraging them to migrate to a newer model is, on the other hand, a considerably rarer thing to do - though consumers should be wary that with the rise of networked home electronics, companies can choose to turn off their tech at the flick of a button.
As Ars Technica noted, Harmony Link owners on web forums don't seem to have noticed any significant problems with their devices and likely expected to continue using them until they stopped functioning. Them's the breaks, apparently.
After livid customer feedback, Logitech has decided to give all Harmony Link owners a free upgrade to its newer Harmony Hub devices. Customers that already used Logitech's previous discount coupon will also be able to contact Logitech so that they can be refunded the difference in price. However, existing Harmony Link devices will still cease to function on 16 March 2018.