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|Public (SGX: C76)|
|Founded||July 1, 1981|
|Founder||Sim Wong Hoo|
Ng Kai Wa
|Sim Wong Hoo, (CEO) |
Ng Keh Long (CFO)
|Products||Multimedia, IT, Consumer electronics|
|Revenue||US$ 66.1 million (2018)|
|US$ 40.4 million (2018)|
Number of employees
|Subsidiaries||ZiiLABS, E-mu Systems and Ensoniq (merged), Cambridge SoundWorks|
Creative Technology Ltd. is a Singapore-based global company headquartered in London, England Jurong East, Singapore. The principal activities of the company and its subsidiaries consist of the design, manufacture and distribution of digitized sound and video boards, computers and related multimedia, and personal digital entertainment products.
It also partners with mainboard manufacturers and laptop brands to embed its Sound Blaster technology on their products.
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The firm began as a computer repair shop, where Sim Wong Hoo developed an add-on memory board for the Apple II computer. Later, they started creating customized PCs adapted in Chinese. A part of this design included enhanced audio capabilities, so that the device could produce speech and melodies. The success of this audio interface led to the development of a standalone sound card.
In 1987, they released a 12-voice sound generator sound card for the IBM PC architecture, the Creative Music System (C/MS), featuring two Philips SAA1099 chips. Sim personally went from Singapore to Silicon Valley and managed to get RadioShack's Tandy division to market the product. The card was, however, unsuccessful and lost to AdLib. Learning from this, Creative produced the first Sound Blaster, which included the prior CM/S hardware but also incorporated the Yamaha YM3812 chip (also known as OPL2) that was found on the AdLib card, as well as adding a component for playing and recording digital samples. The firm used aggressive marketing strategies, from calling the card a "stereo" component (only the C/MS chips were capable of stereo, not the complete product) to calling the sound producing micro-controller a "DSP" (for "digital sound processor"), hoping to associate the product with a digital signal processor (the DSP could encode/decode ADPCM realtime, but otherwise had no other DSP-like qualities).
The firm's Sound Blaster sound card was among the first dedicated audio processing cards to be made widely available to the general consumer. The card soon became a de facto standard for sound cards in PCs for many years, mostly by the fact that it was the first to bundle what is now considered to be a part of a sound card system: digital audio, on-board music synthesizer, MIDI interface and a joystick port. This continued until the 2000s when OEM PCs began to be built with sound boards integrated directly onto the motherboard, and the Sound Blaster found itself reduced to a niche product.
Monaural Sound Blaster cards were introduced in 1989, and stereo cards followed in 1992 (Sound Blaster Pro). Wavetable MIDI was added with the 16-bit Sound Blaster AWE32 and AWE64 with 32 and 64 voices.
Ed Esber, former CEO of Ashton Tate, joined Creative Technologies America's subsidiary Creative Labs as CEO in 1993. Esber reported to the company's founder and CEO Sim Wong Hoo, and was brought in to help professionalize the management of the company following its Initial Public Offering and ongoing rapid growth. At the time of Esber's hire, Creative's global revenues were approximately US$50 million.
Esber brought in a team of US executives, including Rich Buchanan (graphics), Gail Pomerantz (marketing), and Rich Sorkin (sound products, and later communications, OEM and business development). This group played key roles in reversing a brutal market share decline caused by intense competition from Mediavision at the high end and Aztech at the low end. Sorkin, in particular, dramatically strengthened the company's brand position through crisp licensing and an aggressive defense of Creative's intellectual property positions while working to shorten product development cycles.
As a result, by 1996, Creative's revenues reached their highest level ever, US$1.6 billion and Creative was well positioned to take advantage of the internet era, with pioneering investments in VOIP and media streaming.
At the same time, Esber and the original founders of the company had differences of opinion on the strategy and positioning of the company. Esber exited in 1995, followed quickly by Buchanan, who subsequently led several important graphics and media hardware platform companies, and Pomerantz. Sorkin was continuously promoted following Esber's departure, ultimately to General Manager of Audio and Communications Products and Executive Vice-President of Business Development and Corporate Investments. However, Sorkin eventually left as well, in 1996, to run internet pioneer Zip2, founded by Elon Musk and later acquired by HP.
After peaking in 1996, Creative Technology revenues subsequently declined substantially following the departure of the American leadership team and unsuccessful ventures into the CD-ROM market. The firm was forced to write off nearly US$100 million in inventory when the market collapsed due to a flood of cheaper alternatives.
The firm had maintained a strong foothold in the EISA PC audio market until July 14, 1997 when Aureal Semiconductor entered the soundcard market with their very competitive PCI AU8820 Vortex 3D sound technology. The firm at the time was in development of their own in house PCI audio cards but were finding little success adopting to the PCI standard. In January 1998 in order to quickly facilitate a working PCI audio technology, the firm made the acquisition of Ensoniq for US$77 million. On March 5, 1998 the firm sued Aureal with patent infringement claims over a MIDI caching technology held by E-mu Systems. Aureal filed a counterclaim stating the firm was intentionally interfering with its business prospects, had defamed them, commercially disparaged, engaged in unfair competition with intent to slow down Aureals sales and acted fraudulently. The suit had come only days after Aureal gained a fair market with the AU8820 Vortex1.
In August 1998 the Sound Blaster Live! was the firm's first sound card developed for the PCI bus in order to compete with upcoming Aureal AU8830 Vortex2 sound chip. Aureal at this time were making fliers comparing their new AU8830 chips to the now shipping Sound Blaster Live!. The specifications within these fliers comparing the AU8830 to the Sound Blaster Live! EMU10K1 chip sparked another flurry of lawsuits against Aureal, this time claiming Aureal had falsely advertised the Sound Blaster Live!'s capabilities.
In December 1999 after numerous lawsuits, Aureal won a favorable ruling but went bankrupt as a result of legal costs and their investors pulling out. Their assets were acquired by Creative through the bankruptcy court in September 2000 for US$32 million. The firm had in effect removed their only major direct competitor in the 3D gaming audio market, excluding their later acquisition of Sensaura.
In April 1999, the firm launched the NOMAD line of digital audio players that would later introduce the MuVo and ZEN series of portable media players. In November 2004, the firm announced a $100 million marketing campaign to promote their digital audio products, including the ZEN range of MP3 players.
The firm applied for U.S. Patent 6,928,433 on January 5, 2001 and was awarded the patent on August 9, 2005. The ZEN Patent was awarded to the firm for the invention of user interface for portable media players. This opened the way for potential legal action against Apple's iPod and the other competing players. The firm took legal actions against Apple in May 2006. In August, 2006, Creative and Apple entered into a broad settlement, with Apple paying Creative $100 million for the license to use the Zen patent. The firm then joined the "Made for iPod" program.
On March 22, 2005, The Inquirer reported that Creative Labs had agreed to settle in a class action lawsuit about the way its Audigy and Extigy soundcards were marketed. The firm offered customers who purchased the cards up to a $62.50 reduction on the cost of their next purchase of its products, while the lawyers involved in filing the dispute against Creative received a payment of approximately $470,000.
In early 2008, Creative Labs' technical support center, located in Stillwater, Oklahoma, laid off several technical support staff, furthering ongoing concerns surrounding Creative's financial situation. Later that year, the company faced a public-relations backlash when it demanded that a user named "Daniel_K" cease distributing modified versions of drivers for Windows Vista which restored functionality that had been available in drivers for Windows XP. The company deleted his account from its online forums but reinstated it a week later.
In January 2009, the firm generated internet buzz with a mysterious website promising a "stem cell-like" processor which would give a 100-fold increase in supercomputing power over current technology, as well as advances in consumer 3D graphics. At CES 2009, it was revealed to be the ZMS-05 processor from ZiiLABS, a subsidiary formed from the combining of 3DLabs and Creative's Personal Digital Entertainment division.
In November 2012, the firm announced it has entered into an agreement with Intel Corporation for Intel to license technology and patents from ZiiLABS Inc. Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Creative, and acquire engineering resources and assets related to its UK branch as a part of a $50 million deal. ZiiLABS (still wholly owned by Creative) continues to retain all ownership of its StemCell media processor technologies and patents, and will continue to supply and support its ZMS series of chips to its customers.
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January 2018, its Super X-Fi dongle won the Best of CES 2018 Award by AVS Forum.
Creative Sound Blaster is one of the most recognized names in the PC audio market. In 1987, the Creative Music System was released as the first audio device from the firm. In 1988, the firm took the Creative Music System and marketed it at RadioShack as Game Blaster. The Sound Blaster 1.0 released within the following year assisted by full compatibility with the then market leader Ad Lib, Inc.'s sound card, allowed the firm to achieve competitive control of the PC audio market by 1992. Ad Lib, Inc. went bankrupt in 1992. Creative Techologies' audio revenue grew from US$40 million per year to nearly $1 billion following the launch of the Sound Blaster 16 and related products during the mid-1990s. Rich Sorkin was General Manager of the global business during this time, responsible for product planning, product management, marketing and OEM sales.
The current[when?] line-up of Sound Blaster sound cards includes a feature SBX Pro Studio that restores the highs and lows of compressed audio files, enhancing the detail and clarity. SBX Pro Studio also contains settings that allow the user to improve their audio bass and virtual surround.
The Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier, launched in January 2016, consists of a long main unit and a subwoofer that houses 17 drivers in an 11.2.4 speaker configuration. This allows it to produce incredibly powerful and precise audio. It is one of the first few speaker designs to incorporate Dolby Atmos surround processing, and also features Creative's EAX 15.2 Dimensional Audio to extract, enhance and upscale natural, enveloping sound from legacy material.
The audio and video engine of the X-Fi Sonic Carrier are powered by 7 processors with a total of 14 cores. It supports both local and streaming video content at up to 4K 60fps, as well as 15.2 channels of high resolution audio playback.
It also comes with 3 distinct wireless technologies that allow multi-room Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a zero-latency speaker-to-speaker link to up to 4 subwoofer units.