I thought about letting this slide, but I see that nobody else has bothered to critically examine the allegations in the TechRights article written by Roy Schestowitz, so I might as well do it.
According to one unnamed source in the article: “Their laptop campaign had over 65% return rate, I heard closer to 70%.” The source didn’t identify which laptop campaign (Purism has had many of them). This allegation is ludicrous on its face. No company could stay in business, if it had a 70% return rate on its products.
The same unnamed source says:
“When employees went to San Diego to the fulfillment center, they noted all the concerns – return rate, quality, etc. They wanted to work with Weaver for improvement. He would not meet F2F from what I heard but online. During that session, he went around to see what concerns people had. Quickly, 5 were fired. Another quit within a week or so.”
Purism does have a fulfillment center in Carlsbad, which is a suburb of San Diego, but this incident purportedly happened in April 2019 (according to Jay Little). If you look at Purism’s Team page for March 2019, and the Team page for August 2019, you will see almost the same people. Who were these 6 Purism employees that supposedly were fired or quit in April 2019? I don’t see 6 employees that were replaced between February and August. Todoric also mentions that some sales people were fired, but there weren’t 6 people who were replaced at the company, so it seems that the source was exaggerating about the number of people involved.
According to the same source:
“From what I heard,” she said, “Purism money is now going to Forbes and social media campaigns without the transparency of what is really happening. Phoronix is one of their media outlets.”
This is another claim that can be easily debunked. Forbes has only had one review of a Purism product, and it says quite a few negative things that indicate that the reviewer wasn’t being paid by Purism:
The keyboard is exponentially better than any recent MacBook as it’s more tactile and has more travel, but falls just short of the newer XPS 13 or any modern ThinkPad.
The touchpad feels just slightly sluggish compared to XPS 13 or MacBook (but this can improved by tweaking acceleration), resulting in tracking that isn’t quite as smooth as its competitors out of the box.
It doesn’t pass my “can I open it using one finger without the base lifting off the desk” test."
Be warned, though. Purism is charging a hefty markup on some of its storage options. Their 512GB “NVMe Pro” option will run a staggering $649. You can snag a Samsung Pro NVMe drive with double the storage capacity (1TB) at nearly half that price on Amazon.
[talking about Bluetooth] This is the first laptop I’ve used with functional hardware that’s intentionally disabled. Now, the procedure to install and activate it took a relative noob like me about 10 minutes of research and an additional 2 minutes to get it up and running, but I feel this is worth pointing out.
To the company’s credit, they’ve hired to develop an open source firmware for this component. But principles or not, in my world shipping hardware that’s disabled – without an obvious way to activate it – is a questionable practice.
Phoronix has published several critical articles about Purism and the Librem 5 (1, 2, 3). The idea that Phoronix is being paid by Purism for positive coverage is ludicrous, when Phoronix articles say these things about the company:
[quoting Todoric] Purism is a not in a good shape and it was already in bad internally at the time I left. One example is inflating the numbers of Librem One campaign which I think Alan Pope noticed and called them out.
I am sad how things panned out, and I still have hopes in some directions but this is not what community should praise or rely on. Apple of FLOSS world will need to come another day.
From these indications as well as what I’m hearing privately still sounds like they are very tight on cash. While they often tout being a Social Purpose Corporation, they still haven’t been publishing reports or offering much transparency into their operations.
Update 12:37AM EST: The Purism Shop now is showing a $1999 USD price tag, not $1199… Ouch.
Going through FCC data there doesn’t appear to be any certifications in place for Purism yet and if there was they would have likely pronounced it loudly as they tend to do for such milestones.
So unfortunately there still is no transparency into the size of this current shipping window, if the window will be extended given the delay due to the missing resistor, if this batch will see any actual customers outside of Purism, the known issues with this batch, etc.
The idea that this is paid media doesn’t make any sense and even Roy Schestowitz questions whether Phoronix is being paid by Purism, but I have to question Schestowitz’s ethics when he is willing to publish unsubstantiated rumors about Purism in the first place.
Then, Schestowitz uses the example that Purism offered to lend him a Librem laptop to review, but then didn’t send it, and they promised an interview and it didn’t happen. Schestowitz says these actions have eroded his trust in the company, but this isn’t objective reporting. Purism has given its products to many media organizations for review and has done many public interviews, so Schestowitz should acknowledge those facts and tell readers that his experience with the company may not be representative.
Schestowitz concludes the article with this tidbit:
Tom Grz wrote: “I’ve always been suspicious, primarily because their products are high-priced, and if they really wanted to make a difference they should move down the population curve. Also, the president is a jerk.”
A decent reporter would not just publish a quote like that. He would examine how many developers Purism is employing and what it costs to do small-scale custom manufacturing to see whether it makes sense for Purism’s products to be high-priced. He would ask how Grz knows that Todd Weaver is a “jerk”. If Grz has specific information to demonstrate that Weaver is a “jerk”, then he should publish that information, but not Grz’s personal opinion about the man.
The fact that Schestowitz publishes rumors and personal opinions without trying to independently verify any of it tells me that he isn’t a reliable reporter. As far as I can tell, Schestowitz didn’t even give Purism the chance to respond to the allegations before publishing, which is another sign of poor reporting.