Thoughts on Built-In Software

February 26, 2007 at 9:34 am | Posted in Entertaining, Technical | Leave a comment

New computers almost universally come loaded with software, because, as we all know, the PC manufacturers get kickbacks from software makers to load up their warez before shipping time.

I think this style of marketing is beginning to backfire, however, as more and more people are deeply offended by unwanted intrusions into their digital life.

Here are some examples: 

1. We used to get unsolicited sales calls at home. Now we have the federal “Do Not Call” list, and people are taking telemarketers to court for calling.

2. In less than 10 days, 40,000+ people have posted their support of an adware-free computer on the Dell  IdeaStorm site.

3. Adware & SPAM are often lumped together with spyware and viruses in the PC security industry, and a great deal of expertise and processing power are being directed toward cleaning them away from email systems before they get to the desktop.

My daughter received a hand-me-down laptop, nearly new, from her aunt who decided she was going to opt for a desktop PC instead. When the laptop arrived at my house, the setup of the computer took over two hours of my time, much of which was spent removing the OEM-installed junk. I was stunned, since I had been spoiled by the business-to-business PC industry, in which computers don’t tend to come loaded with so much junk. There were ads from three different ISPs, and a few from online vendors, as well as an antivirus package and an antispyware package. This was a colossal waste of time, and I must admit I chafed at the task, and at the treatment of my sister by her computer manufacturer. Some of this stuff wasn’t just annoying at face value; some of it consumed system resources and caused conflicts with software my sister had actually wanted to install. The end-result was extremely frustrating, and part of the reason she ran off to join the Linux camp.

I think I agree with the 40,000 people who clamored at Dell this week asking for a clean PC. If I ordered a book on Amazon.com, I would be extremely angry if sections of the text were blocked out by stickers advertising other books. If I ordered a car with blue exterior paint, I’d be miffed if it was painted with advertisements, and if I had to listen to an audio ad every time I started the engine.

This sort of thing feels disrespectful, because for most people, a computer is a major purchase. Paying dearly for something and then not being able to get it exactly the way they want it is an affront to them, and they are justified in taking offense. I think out of respect for them, hardware manufacturers ought to offer a ‘clean’ PC option, even if it means a slightly higher price. We in the industry are lucky that we can acquire our computers without all that garbage.

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