I think Bizzley makes some great points. I backed the cased Next kickstarter when it launched and the progress has been frustratingly disappointing, especially over the past few months.
I understand the risks that come with crowd funded campaigns, but the Next project has really hit home just how little project organisers/creators realise how difficult it is getting a hardware project released. First the board only option was delayed for a few months, which was fine, but then there was months of issues where board only users couldn't get it to work properly, it didn't work with their Spectrum case, it didn't work with their television. All of this for 400 units. Looking back it's obviously crazy to have done this - while making a few hundred hardcore users happy, they simply didn't have the resources to handle this.
But the real gripes I have with the project now is, as Bizzley has put it, every update seems to come with a new delay, with the promised fortnightly updates becoming more sporadic. When the delay is announced, my first thought is "you're telling me - eight months after the project was supposed to be released - that you weren't aware of like how to make the case/how to make the keyboard membrane/how to source materials/what sort of keys are going to use etc etc" Again, I understand that these are people where it's not their profession (I think that's showing now), but the lack of a transparent roadmap just hasn't helped.
Then in the last update, they did release a sort of project roadmap. Well a project status summary really. Now while there may have been a lot of items marked as done, but some of the "to-do" list is still worrying - especially the ones in bold.
Keyboard keys printing test (TO DO)
Final Keyboard backplate test injection (TO DO)
Final Keyboard assembly & Case fit test (TO DO)
Manual printing (TO DO)
Manual shipping to SMS (TO DO)
SD cards content copy as SMS (TO DO)
Case mass-plastic injection (TO DO)
Keyboard mass-plastic injection (TO DO)
Keyboard final assembly (TO DO)
Keyboard shipping to case production (TO DO)
Case & Keyboard shipping to SMS (TO DO)
Final Spectrum Next assembly (TO DO)
Shipping to backers (TO DO)
To be blunt, there is no way they're going to test the keyboard, mass produce and assemble 5000+ keyboards and cases by January. At the rate they're going, I'd be surprised if we saw it before April. But what was worrying with that last update is there was no indication at all of timescales - i.e. it being a roadmap with deadlines e.g. "We will have final keyboard assembly and case fit test done by November 30th. "
I know some people don't really care and think "well, it will be ready when it's ready" but I do find it annoying to get an update in July with the title "Production ahead, captain!" and the text "we’ve got two busy weeks packed with production updates, progress and a final test to go through." and signing off with "The testing membranes are now in production and will be ready on July 17th for final approval, the last hurdle between the project and the backers. Fingers crossed this is it, folks!"
Except here we are, 4 months later - and counting - and there's still significant work to be done as highlighted in the last update and with no end in sight.
I think that's why some backers are getting really annoyed now and maybe worrying if the Next is ever going to be released.