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Bloatware Removal Threatens PC Industry Profits 341

Posted by kdawson
from the like-an-ad-blocker dept.
Anti-Globalism sends along a piece on how a consumer-friendly service is not so good for PC manufacturers. "Before they ship PCs to retailers like Best Buy, computer makers load them up with lots of free software. For $30, Best Buy will get rid of it for you. That simple cleanup service is threatening the precarious economics of the personal computer industry. Software companies pay hundreds of millions of dollars to PC makers like Hewlett-Packard to install their photo tools, financial programs, and other products, usually with some tie-in to a paid service or upgrade. With margins growing thinner than most laptops, this critical revenue can make the difference between profit and loss for the computer makers, industry analysts say."
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Bloatware Removal Threatens PC Industry Profits

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  • by poetmatt (793785) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:10PM (#24796153) Journal

    Thankfully, Linux comes pretty free of bloatware. I guess they don't like that artificially inflated revenues by shoving crapware in people's faces is now heading back towards "realistic revenues by giving people what they actually want"?

    I seem to recall a time way back when some company actually installed gator with their pc's bloatware.

    • by nelsonal (549144) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:15PM (#24796251) Journal
      The people have already spoken. They want the best hardware specs on the side for the least money with little care about measures of quality that require a little more knowledge. When was the last time you heard of anyone buying an airplane ticket based on anything other than price and time?

      Other companies already build similar computers without bloatware, but the prices are higher and they have fewer customers.
      • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:21PM (#24796363) Homepage

        Actually I know a fair number of people who won't fly particular airlines if there's any reasonable alternative available because of the bad service they've gotten from them. It's obviously not unlimited, for instance they might be willing to pay an extra 10% to avoid the undesirable airline but not an extra 30%, but they will pay a certain amount extra not to have to deal with something they've had problems with before.

        • Flying (Score:2, Interesting)

          I won't fly at all unless I'm flying to somewhere that I cannot reach by driving for 10 hours. This isn't because of the airlines; it's because of the federal government's insistence on security theatre. I'm tired of being treated like a potential criminal just because I want to get on an airplane.
      • Everyone want's to maximize their economy. If you're flying for experiance, you want 1st class on hawaiian. FAT reclining leather seats and food that was better than some 5 star restaurants I've been too.

        However, if you just want to "get there alive" well no worries, because it's federally regulated, If the "hardware" doesn't work, you die. No one legally makes money when people die. For the best value on a plane, all you need is a seat, a place for luggage, and the lowest price available.

        Computers are

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          I have flown with Air Hawaii. Twice. There and back. Never again.

          • The flight was massively overbooked.
          • The stewardesses mostly looked like they were moonlighting from their day jobs as Sumo wrestlers (if the flight is totally full, that can be a real problem).
          • The air conditioning leaked water onto the passengers.
          • The large cockroach marching along the ceiling was . . . use your imagination

          This was not long after the roof came off of one of their 737s, back in the mid '80s. They may have improved since but

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Z00L00K (682162)

        Reasonable service is also a factor when buying ticket...

        Flying is like sitting on a collective toilet for several hours. And considering all security measures etc. today you start to be willing to pay at least for some comfort in the chair. Maybe the security measures are promoted by the airline industry to make people more willing to pay for comfort?

        As for bloatware - I always nuke the standard installation and make a clean installation of Windows whenever necessary. The security risks and performance iss

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by snowraver1 (1052510)
          I would much rather fly in a toilet stall. They are private, rarely have screaming babies, no one reclines their toilet into your stall, and some even have private screens for watching adverts(better than most movies they show).
      • by 2nd Post! (213333)

        Some people have spoken. 9% apparently don't want bloatware. 30% apparently care about money the most. 30% care about quality more than money, but less than bloatware. 5% apparently care for hardware specs above all.

        Essentially, bloatware is really adware, and the reason the computers are so cheap is because of the adware. Remove the adware, and PCs go up in price.

      • Regular airline travelers who fly more than once or twice a year tend to pick airlines where they know they'll get adequate service. Some airlines treat you so damned poor, or nickle-and-dime you to the point that you'll never fly them, regardless of price.

        However, the average home consumer isn't buying tons of computers all the time, so all they care about is price and specs like you said. And most of them don't understand specs.

    • by Locutus (9039)

      the PC has become a revenue stream much like the store shelves at you local retail outlet. Very much of what is on the shelf and where it is on the shelf is paid to the retailer to get the product there. Customer product demands didn't do it, money did. The Windows PC is that way and has been for over 10 years. IMO, this is why you have not seen Open Office loaded on any of these Windows PCs. There is nobody paying to put it there and there is someone paying to put other applications there.

      Good for Best Buy

    • by D'Sphitz (699604) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:45PM (#24796821) Journal
      Like most nerds I build my own PC's, but I also help teach non-techie friends and family to order parts and assemble their own pc's.

      They're all surprised when they find out it's not rocket science, and they end up with a better pc than they'd get at Best Buy for a fraction of the cost, custom built to their needs and sans bloatware. Many have gone on to build their next generation pc without my help.

      I think that's a bigger threat to retail PC sales than removing bloatware, the current generation who are growing up with gadgets and computers will be even more likely to take on building their own computers. It really makes no sense to buy a retail pc, they cost more, they come with stuff you don't need, they're missing stuff you do need, they're little more than marketing in a box. I think the only reason people buy them is because they are intimidated by the prospect of building their own, or don't realize they're being gamed.
      • I think that's a bigger threat to retail PC sales than removing bloatware, the current generation who are growing up with gadgets and computers will be even more likely to take on building their own computers.

        In your geeky dreams. MOST of the people that go to Best Buy don't know a serial cable from a box of Wheaties. Maybe some of your gamer friends have been turned on to DIY and that's great, but the Great Unwashed doesn't want to be bothered.

        Not to mention how hard it is to build a laptop from compo

        • by poetmatt (793785)

          lol you should be modded funny.

          However, the guy is correct actually. There is a growing market due to the disparity between retail price and buying parts individually that is well over the cost of inconvenience.

          I am seeing such interest increase actually, likewise I'm seeing an increase in the number of people interested in Linux as games are now being supported more and more (but not flawless, of course)

      • by clodney (778910) on Friday August 29, 2008 @03:45PM (#24799515)

        I used to feel that the same way, but the last time I looked at building a basic box for a family member I found that I basically couldn't beat Dell's prices - maybe $50, but not enough to compensate for the extra effort of buying pieces and assembling them.

        At the high end I think you are correct, if only because I can cut back on expensive components I don't care about.

        But given the economies of scale that the big operators have, it is hard to beat them significantly on price.

    • by Kamokazi (1080091) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:51PM (#24796931)
      If Linux was sold in retail channels and had marketshare like Windows, the same exact thing would happen. Quicken, Adobe XX, Roxio XX, Turbotax, etc. would all have Linux versions that would get preinstalled just the same (along with a host of 'update' programs from the manufacturer and those software vendors. It would be the same on OS X if they licensed it to 3rd party PC makers. It's just the marketshare and how Windows is sold that causes this, not Windows itself.
  • by Asmor (775910) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:13PM (#24796197) Homepage

    On the one hand, I think this is a sleazy practice and I'll be happy to see it go.

    On the other hand, it's simple enough for someone who knows what they're doing to just reformat the computer with a fresh install of their OS of choice, so the discount you get on your PC for it is pretty nice.

    I suspect that if this practice does die out, it'll mean the big guys are on slightly less uneven footing with the little mom & pop PC shops, so I guess that's always a good thing.

    • by drachenstern (160456) <drachenstern@gmail.com> on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:22PM (#24796375) Journal

      Speaking of Mom and Pops, I for one welcome this change (no memes intended).

      I'm getting tired of having my mom and dad (not to mention the other umpteen dozens of people in my life who are in the same boat) call and ask what program xyz does, when I don't have their computer, have never heard of xyz, and can only make broad guesses as to the purpose of the program based on the name. I mean, sure, most are genuinely helpful, but it's not like computers come with big thick welcome guides anymore like they used to.

      Anything that helps make life easier for my mom or dad when they get a new computer helps make my life easier as a side effect, and I'm okay with that. Plus, it helps us to figure out what's supposed to be there when we come over and work on their computers. Hopefully it will also be the end of my sister-in-laws complaining that their free game that came with their computer just closed on them and won't re-open... This always leads me to have this fun and exciting conversation

      "Did you read the screen or did you just call me instead? ...
      Uh huh, now read me what it says ...
      Uh huh, so when it says you've played for an hour and you should now purchase the game, what does that mean to you? ...
      Well I would guess that it was a free trial, to get you hooked, so that you will give them money. I would suggest that you get up and walk away from the computer though, as you'll need to come up for air instead of playing [the same bakery game with lots of different skins so it looks like a dog salon or whatever] ...
      No, I don't know where to get the full version for free ...
      No, I won't just 'make it work', you'll have to pay the $$$ ...
      Okay, well I'm at work, bye!"

    • Anyone who knows what they're doing to just reformat the hard drive would be smart enough to know they could have gotten a bigger discount on the PC by just ordering all the components and self assembling. No one who knows how to get rid of crapware would ever need to buy a pre-assembled desktop. Laptops of course, are a different story.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LunaticTippy (872397)
        That is only true for really high-end machines. For a commodity desktop you can often save hundreds by going with an older model HP, Dell, or whatever. Just make sure you wipe it first.

        Wait a minute, that's what this entire article is about!

        I have had enough trouble getting warranty support for DOA mobos, processors, power supplies, etc. that I generally don't bother building machines anymore.

        For most people, it works best and costs least to buy a $300 closeout special from microcenter and if it doesn'
        • "I have had enough trouble getting warranty support for DOA mobos, processors, power supplies, etc. that I generally don't bother building machines anymore"

          I have had great support from vendors like ASUS and EVGA. Infact I was so thrilled w/ EVGA's support that I will make them my #1 brand for videocards! Though I must say. I haven't had hardware die on me in a long time, and the one time I sent out a video card, it was actually MY fault. (I switched to graphical F@HOME for somereason, and it doesn't pl

      • by Detritus (11846)
        I recently bought a Dell desktop because it was on sale at a price that was substantially lower than what it would have cost me for the parts. Plus, it had a warranty and I didn't have to waste a day putting it together. OEM prices for parts and software are often much less than retail.
    • Even footing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lilith's Heart-shape (1224784) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:29PM (#24796507) Homepage

      I suspect that if this practice does die out, it'll mean the big guys are on slightly less uneven footing with the little mom & pop PC shops, so I guess that's always a good thing.

      I think we've also hit on one of the reasons Apple computers cost more than similar machines from Dell, HP, Lenovo, et al: Apple doesn't load down their Macs with a lot of third-party bloatware.

      • by Ash-Fox (726320)

        I think we've also hit on one of the reasons Apple computers cost more than similar machines from Dell, HP, Lenovo, et al: Apple doesn't load down their Macs with a lot of third-party bloatware.

        Sorry, the difference between Macs and PCs in price [slashdot.org] is too great to be just subsidized by this extra software.

      • No, they load it up with their own bloatware.

    • On the other hand, it's simple enough for someone who knows what they're doing to just reformat the computer with a fresh install of their OS of choice, so the discount you get on your PC for it is pretty nice.

      Oh? How's that? I buy a laptop for business use. I am keenly interested in keeping on the safe side of licensing because I don't want the BSA jackboots on my back. I haven't bought a boxed copy of Windows so do not have an installer disk. The OEM media restores my drive to the same state as when I first brought it home.

      I'm an IT guy and totally happy with do-it-yourself; I'm typing this on a system I built from Newegg parts. Still, it's not at all obvious to me how I'd clean up that laptop without involving The Pirate Bay or shelling out for official installation disks.

      • by LunaticTippy (872397) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:48PM (#24796879)
        I call shenanigans. An IT guy that has never heard of the PC Decrapifier [pcdecrapifier.com]
        • I do Unix. I bought the laptop to run Quickbooks and some industry-specific applications. I appreciate the link, but the point was that you don't have to be a complete babe in the woods to have these sorts of problems.

    • by Scoth (879800) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:33PM (#24796573)

      This isn't always true. My fiancee got a laptop a year or so ago that came with no discs whatsoever. It gave you the option of burning restore discs, which included all the bloatware. There was no way, short of buying a retail copy of Vista or going pirate, to reformat/install without the bloatware. Fortunately most of it uninstalled fairly cleanly, but "just format and reinstall!!" isn't always an option.

      • Then I'll give you a hint...

        thepiratebay.com

        Its all there, XP SP2 corp edition with serials and all. Verifies good vs WGA.

        And even having a full "library" of software, I still choose Ubuntu. These days, unless its playing a game with friends (which invariably use Windows), I'm hanging around multimedia apps and stuff in Linux.

        It Just Works.

  • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@@@yahoo...com> on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:15PM (#24796233) Journal

    The phrase 'Adapt or die' applies to corporations, too. The fact that people will pay $30 to have this crap removed should be telling you something.

    • by nelsonal (549144)
      That they don't mind a trip to the store that costs $30 to save $100 on their computer?
    • by Hatta (162192)

      It's pretty appalling that they have to pay at all to get rid of it. "Awfully nice OS you have there... Would be a shame if anything were to happen to it, eh?"

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bigstrat2003 (1058574) *
        No, it isn't appalling at all. Best Buy didn't put the crapware on, why should they take it off for free?
    • Does an OEM make more or less than $30 by preinstalling all that junk?

    • by sconeu (64226) on Friday August 29, 2008 @01:04PM (#24797163) Homepage Journal

      The phrase 'Adapt or die' applies to corporations, too.

      Actually, it's "Adapt or get legislation passed protecting your business model", but thank you for playing.

  • Advertising (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sta7ic (819090) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:15PM (#24796245)

    The bloatware construes more advertising & product placement (literally, oddly) than a constructive service. This sounds a lot like getting a TiVo or the like in order to scrub commercials out of your favorite shows.

    Do that many people really sign up for the full versions of the software that comes on their computers?

    • They probably also reply to spam, sign into phishing websites, and unzip encrypted ZIP attachments from untrusted sources. And turn off their AV because it keeps popping up alerts.
    • by bogie (31020)

      I know for one vendor it's worth it. Dell and the scumbags at Mcafee give you a 30 day trial for antivirus,firewall, etc on your brand new PC. Soon you start hearing about how your computer will no longer be protected from viruses. My guess is most people don't know any better and simply pay up. They aren't ever aware that there are quality Free alternatives. Year after year they pay up.

      You can be sure that for some vendors it is very much worth the price of being able to get their foot in the door first.

  • Simple solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 77Punker (673758) <spencr04 AT highpoint DOT edu> on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:16PM (#24796259)

    Maybe the computers these days are too cheap. If you're not making enough money and this software is pissing people off, just remove the software and raise the price. It's not like most people are going to start building their own computers.

    Remove the crappy software, raise the price, and sell the computer as a "premium" edition. People aren't going to stop buying computers.

    • Heck, it is getting to the point where I'd almost rather buy a new keyboard than go through the hassle of cleaning mine. And when I am taking care of family's virus ridden computers, I am always doing the mental calculations and figuring that it would be more expedient to buy them a new PC. Hardware has dropped in price so much, and their capabilities have far exceeded 90% of the population's needs. Consequently companies like Dell are looking to squeeze every last nickle out of it they can.

    • by pizzach (1011925)

      Remove the crappy software, raise the price, and sell the computer as a "premium" edition. People aren't going to stop buying computers.

      Interesting idea. But it's a marketing nightmare.

      Premium edition features:
      -Less software
      -More expensive
      -No preinstalled spyware by us and our.."friends"

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LWATCDR (28044)

      Actually a big part of the problem is that Windows is to expensive.
      The reason that a Linux PC costs about the same as a Windows PC is that the manufactures make enough money of the caplets to pay for Windows.
      Maybe all PCs should be sold naked and then you have to buy what ever OS you want.
      BTW most serves I see are sold that way.

  • They don't load them with lots of free software. They load them up with lots of proprietary software, and pretty nasty stuff it is too. Even if you use 'free' to mean 'free of charge, gratis' that is not really accurate here, since the manufacturer is paid to install it on the PC. It's more like proprietary software that has a negative price.

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      And maybe that also explains the unwillingness for PC manufacturers to provide you with uninstalled PC which means that you have to pay the Microsoft tax even if you are going to run Linux, AROS or whatever on it.

      And since the M$ tax exists it's no wonder that some people runs "illegal" versions of Windows on their machines - since they have already paid Microsoft.

      And yet another issue with the M$ tax is that many large companies buys these PC:s and then have a volume license agreement too, which means that

  • by Peter Cooper (660482) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:26PM (#24796437) Homepage Journal

    The current policy is extortion on non-savvy users. It's like a car dealership filling your new car with trash and charging you to take it out again!

    Drop the gimmicks, and get into selling PCs as a business. Get the markup right, make a profit, and compete. If people WANT to buy computers that are $30 cheaper and full of crap, that's their decision. Don't regulate it either way - do what the market can stand.

  • Hopefully means that maybe Ma/Pa shops, and independants can start building custom PCs again! I can't compete w/ Dell on a (new)build till I hit the 2K+ mark in parts @ pricewatch "wholesale" prices, then I can take 5% max (not counting time). Has a new Alienware or Voodoo hasn't sprung up yet? Though if there is a good botique dealer out there that I don't know about, I'd be interested in looking @ their stuff (for research of course, I build all my own comps).

  • To PC Makers: If your business model's bottom line *depends on* installing bloatware/crapware/trialware please realize that you are the next fatality on the highway of making products that people want. (I do not LOOK FOR devices with pre-installed crapware, I look for quality components (hardware I want to use) and a great and human-voiced service department to backup the fat warranty.

    NOTE: After the "Geek Squad" spy camera in the bathroom scandal and bulk copying customer's MP3 and JPG content scandals,
    • by mweather (1089505)
      I hate to break it to you, but ALL PC techs copy your porn and music. It's one of the job perks.
      • No we don't. Some of us have standards for ethical and professional behavior that we follow. Shocking, I know.
  • If their business model requires annoying customers and squeezing them for every dollar, then fuck them. They deserve to lose profits and die.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:38PM (#24796665) Homepage

    It is abusive for a company to take advantage of their otherwise simple business relationships with their customers.

    When a company uses a customer's business relationship to gain even more money by selling that customer's information, by loaded unwanted software (that invariably kills the machine's performance), by inserting ads, or even subscribing them to mailing lists of "their partners," it all amounts to abuse of the business relationship outside of the desired results expected by the customer.

    Any time a company annoys a customer, they risk losing that customer. Just because "everyone does it" is no excuse for doing so. Even my preferred vendors do this and while I have learned to live with it by not even powering on the computer in its default configuration in most cases, instead installing the OS from scratch, it is a lot of work that should be needless.

    To be clear, the current culture of using or leveraging customers to make additional profits is bad for core business.

  • PC decrapifyer (Score:3, Informative)

    by flyingfsck (986395) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:42PM (#24796739)
    So they charge $30 to run PC Decrapifyer? http://pcdecrapifier.com/ [pcdecrapifier.com]
  • Hmmm... Best Buy charges $30 for the cleanup, customers are willing to pay that $30.

    Computer companies are currently getting $30 per computer for bloatware.

    If they can't include bloatware, that means... prices will rise by $30, but customers won't have to pay Best Buy $30 to remove it...

    Where's the downside?

  • How is this going to affect the eternal "Macs are overpriced" debate if they start selling PC's at their "real" cost without all that crap on them? :)

    • Mac's aren't "overpriced". Macs do cost more, but OS X is worth more than Windows Vista (if you don't agree, don't get a Mac, sheesh).

      And a $30 change in the cost of a PC isn't going to make much difference.

      • by tylersoze (789256)

        I consider Macs to be well worth their price, I'm typing this on a $3000 Macbook Pro. :) $30 is what Best Buy charges to remove the bloatware, who knows the actual amount OEM's receive from these companies per PC. It could be significantly higher than $30.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Ash-Fox (726320)

          I consider Macs to be well worth their price, I'm typing this on a $3000 Macbook Pro. :) $30 is what Best Buy charges to remove the bloatware, who knows the actual amount OEM's receive from these companies per PC. It could be significantly higher than $30.

          I find Macs more expensive, hell, just look at my current laptop:

          My HP DV6000 widescreen laptop which came with 2GB RAM, built in webcam, nvidia graphics card with 512MB dedicated RAM with all the essentials including wireless, bluetooth. Has HDMI, a built

  • Most pc buyers hate that crapware that is installed on new computers. We all have our preference for apps unless we're completely new to computers, then Linux is for you.

    I say stop pushing crapware down our throats to begin with.

  • I'm conflicted. Shovelware is an awful blight on the face of humanity. On the other hand, it makes computers cheaper, and I don't have to look at it, thanks to linux. So, in effect, it is a tax on the ignorant that goes right into my pocket. I'll be a little sad to see it go.
  • by Skapare (16644) on Friday August 29, 2008 @02:11PM (#24798167) Homepage

    ... to people still stuck with dialup speed access (to the internet or a BBS) or who need to have media mailed to them. Of course the reality today is that those with broadband access no longer need to have everything preloaded. The vendors adopted that model back when it was helpful to consumers. But like most big corporations, they are now stuck on something that no longer makes any sense.

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