Computers Coming Preloaded with More Crapware Than Ever Before

SonynotebookWalt Mossberg of Wall Street Journal fame has an article out (subscription required) explaining just how much crap his brand new Sony laptop came with. And we’re not talking full programs either; these are trial versions which force you to pay later if you’re really interested. Walt counted about two dozen “craplets” pre-installed, which likely are part of the reason for the over two minutes of time it takes the computer to start up (compared to 30 seconds for a comparable Apple MacBook, ouch!). Sony’s response:

“The programs are carefully selected and provide benefits to many consumers, up to 30% of whom act on the offers.” Sony even goes as far as to preload your computer with over four gigabytes of movies (taking up your space) that you can’t watch unless you pay, calling it “a key differentiator for our products in the marketplace, which we have found that many VAIO customers greatly appreciate.”

Nice try with the PR, Sony, but we see right through it. “Benefits” (nice word usage; translation: when Sony gets paid because of impulse users) to 30% of customers is no excuse for pissing off the other 70%.

Here’s a list of all the craplet issues Walt mentioned in his article and video review:

  1. Two desktop icons for America Online services
  2. At least two dozen icons for random offers
  3. Two desktop icons for Microsoft services
  4. Napster window in the lower right part of the screen
  5. “Watch Hit Movies Now!” icon which requires you to pay to play the movies already taking up space on your computer
  6. Internet Explorer preloaded with AOL toolbar
  7. AOL set as default search engine with Google not even listed as an option
  8. Symantec Internet Security 60-day trial (requires multiple rounds of warnings / scans / updates before use)

I think Walt sums it up well when explaining the core issue:

“The problem is a lack of respect for the consumer. The manufacturers don’t act as if the computer belongs to you. They act as if it is a billboard for restricted trial versions of software and ads for Web sites and services that they can sell to third-party companies who want you to buy these products.”

Incidentally, Dell recently released a service called “Idea Storm” where consumers vote on what they’d like to see change at Dell. The fourth most popular idea? “NO EXTRA SOFTWARE OPTION” If you want to make it even more popular, it takes less than a minute to register and vote. You can also leave comments like this one:

“I think a clean computer option would be a differentiator for Dell. I’d be willing to pay a premium to replace the lost software placement fees.”

I’m not sure about paying a premium, but the idea definitely would make me go Dell over other brands…

*Update* A reader, Jim Strickland, emailed me and had this to share as his solution after trying to clean up the computer and even reinstall (a reinstall of Windows using the CD that comes with the Sony only puts all the crapware back in place):

“I solved it by plopping down my $99.00 for a clean copy of XP Home and installed it alone. I found the drivers I needed and it now works reasonably well without any Sonyware. Never never never again another VAIO. I can only think how I would react if I bought a television set and each time I turned it on I had to watch an endless stream of advertising…oh wait, I do. Oh well…”